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A meeting of the minds over James Bay niobium

Moose Cree First Nation, NioBay Metals sign environmental protection agreement
NioBay Metals (Moosonee)
NioBay Metals' Moosonee office (NioBay Twitter photo_

A James Bay First Nation community and a niobium exploration outfit have avoided going to court by signing an exploration and environmental pact.

Moose Cree First Nation (MCFN) and NioBay Metals have jointly reached a “protection agreement,” allowing the Quebec junior miner to resume drilling at its niobium exploration project site in the James Bay lowlands.

According to a Dec. 24 company news release, the “protection agreement” is a commitment to respect the First Nation’s rights and interests, and establishes a forum to receive any concerns about the project.

NioBay’s 2,530-hectare property is 45 kilometres south of Moosonee and is in Moose Cree traditional territory.

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In January 2019, the company received a provincial exploration permit for a small drill program consisting of eight holes to search for high-grade extensions of niobium.

Soon after the community and some area families filed a judicial review, concerned about the potential environmental impacts of a possible mine and insisting that a mine not proceed without local support.

Exploration remains at the early stage but the company said the results from this small program should provide enough answers to work on a preliminary economic assessment.

The court application has been withdrawn and the parties agreed to conduct an environmental study on the mineral property.

The results were to be shared with the community in mid-November and the next steps of community engagement were to be discussed.

In a statement, NioBay president-CEO Claude Dufresne expressed hope the agreement will “provide the basis for the beginning of a positive relationship with MCFN for the years to come.”

Moosonee Chief Merv Cheechoo believes there’s much to gain by engaging with the company.

“After consulting with the community, MCFN has entered into this protection agreement and looks forward to building a mutually respectful relationship with NioBay.”

Just before Christmas, NioBay announced it had raised $2.3 million from flow-through shares to do exploration on its James Bay property and its Chevier niobium-tantalium project in the Chibougamau region of Quebec.

NioBay Metals acquired the property from Barrick Gold, James Bay Columbium and Goldcorp in June 2016. Exploration for niobium in the area goes back to the late 1960s.

Niobium is used as an additive for high strength, low alloy steel and stainless steel for oil and gas pipelines, vehicle bodies, structural steel uses, tooling, shipbuilding and railroad tracks.