MONTREAL, Oct. 1, 2014 /PRNewswire/ - In a historically symbolic gesture, the Innu First Nations of Uashat mak Mani-utenam and Matimekush-Lac John returned two enormous iron ore stones from the mining pits of the Iron Ore Company of Canada (IOC), majority owned by the mining giant Rio Tinto, to IOC/Rio Tinto's head office (1000, Sherbrooke Street West in Montreal, Quebec). The stones were erected in the Innu communities of Uashat and Mani-utenam in September 1970 to mark 100 years since the discovery of the rich deposits of iron ore in the Schefferville area, which deposits were mined by IOC as of 1954. This act, intended both to heal and to send a message, kicks off a campaign themed "IOC/Rio Tinto must pay its rent" which aims to denounce the violation of the Innu's rights by IOC/Rio Tinto, particularly its refusal to negotiate a fair economic agreement.
"These stones represent the only thing we have ever received from all of IOC/Rio Tinto's mining developments on our lands. Our peoples have yet to receive any revenue, compensation, indemnity or royalties whatsoever from IOC/Rio Tinto. We have already reached agreements with all of the other iron ore mining companies, four in total, in our territory, yet the one that was the first to move into our territory and the one which caused us the most harm, IOC/Rio Tinto, is the last one without an agreement with us - the true owners of the land. As a result, we wish to return to IOC/Rio Tinto these "stones of shame" to send a message that the era when companies like IOC/Rio Tinto could profit from our resources all the while ignoring us is over", stated Mike McKenzie, Chief of Uashat mak Mani-utenam.
It is worth remembering, that as of 1954, IOC/Rio Tinto operated twenty mines in the Schefferville area before abandoning them (while savagely destroying the city of Schefferville) in 1982 and that the company continues to operate nearly ten iron ore mines on the territory of the Innu of Uashat mak Mani-utenam and of Matimekush-Lac John in the area of Labrador City. The company recently increased its annual production capacity from 18 to 23 million tonnes of iron ore concentrate and plans to open a tenth mine in Labrador City called "Wabush 3".
"All of IOC/Rio Tinto's projects and activities blatantly violate our rights, particularly our Aboriginal rights and our Aboriginal title, and are contrary to international law, particularly the principle of "free, prior and informed consent". Even after 60 years of discrimination and violation of our rights, we have tried to sit down with IOC/Rio Tinto to find a solution, but such negotiations started almost 4 years ago and the company has time and again demonstrated that it is not at all interested in reaching a fair agreement, preferring to continue to ignore us just like they always have. We are fed up. It is long overdue that IOC/Rio Tinto pays its rent", said Réal McKenzie, Chief of Matimekush-Lac John.
After the failure of negotiations, the Innu will be forced to take other measures in order to ensure that their rights are respected and in order to force IOC/Rio Tinto to modernize its antiquated corporate culture. Among the next steps planned, the Innu plan on accelerating their $900 million lawsuit against IOC and its subsidiary QNS&L, which lawsuit was the object of an important legal victory for the Innu on September 19, 2014 when the judge in the case decided that the Innu did indeed have the right to sue IOC (see the press release of September 22, 2013 for more information). If IOC/Rio Tinto continues to violate the rights of the Innu, they also plan to go to court to contest the new "Wabush 3" mine that IOC/Rio Tinto seeks to build.
To watch the video, IOC/Rio Tinto Pay the Rent: http://youtu.be/aEb478PyQcM
And for more information: http://ioc-riotinto-innu.com/
SOURCE Innu Takuaikan Uashat Mak Mani-Utenam (ITUM)
Image with caption: "From left to right : Florent Vollant, song writer and composer, Chief Mike McKenzie, Chief Réal McKenzie (CNW Group/Innu Takuaikan Uashat Mak Mani-Utenam (ITUM))". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20141001_C9975_PHOTO_EN_42930.jpg