Province prepares to handle $500 million lawsuit over Flathead

The province has to deal with a $500 million lawsuit over its land use decision in the Flathead watershed.

Back in February of 2010, the province of B.C. signed a memorandum of understanding with Montana permitting recreation and hunting in the Flathead watershed, but banning mining or oil and gas extraction.

At the time, this move was lauded by environmental groups as well as guide-outfitting organizations but panned by the Association of Mineral Exploration B.C., claiming there was a lack of due process in the memorandum.

Now Cline Mining has filed the $500 million lawsuit stating its mineral rights “were expropriated, taken or injuriously affected by the province’s passing of the (Flathead Watershed Conservation) Act.”

A release from the company states, “Cline is also seeking compensation including, but not limited to, the loss of the value of the licences and applications for licences for these properties, estimated at in excess of $500 million on a net present value basis over the expected lives of the mines.”

This lawsuit comes after a $30 million settlement the Province paid to Boss Energy in October after it banned uranium mining.

Wildsight and the Sierra Club of B.C.. campaigned vociferously against mining in the region and welcomed the mining ban. However, representatives state that the province’s Mining Act leaves the door open to companies looking to sue for compensation.

“Our 150 year old act gives special treatment to the mining sector that other sectors do not enjoy,” said Casey Brennan, Wildsight’s Southern Rocky Mountains Program Manager. “It’s time B.C. followed the lead of other provinces and updated our act to take community and environmental concerns into account.”

B.C.’s Mineral Tenure Act is based on the “free entry” system, abandoned by other provinces, that allows claims to be staked virtually anywhere in B.C. without prior approval from the B.C. government or First Nations, and without taking into account the ecological importance of the land in question. Once the claim is made it supersedes all other potential land uses.

“We look forward to permanently protecting the Flathead with national park in the southeastern one-third of the valley and a Wildlife Management Area in the rest of the valley,” said Brennan.

A statement from the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum resources said that the province would not comment on the lawsuit because it is before the courts. However the statement said that it is currently far apart on negotiations with Cline Mining.

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