The Tlicho government was deliberately absent from the Tuesday signing of an agreement on local hiring and benefits for the proposed NICO mine 160 kilometres northwest of Yellowknife.

The GNWT and Fortune Minerals, the company behind the mine project, signed the agreement on January 29th. The Tlicho leadership were meant to act as witnesses to the signing but chose not to participate to show their disapproval of the agreement and how they were consulted leading up to the signing.

READ MORE: MINING COMPANY COMMITS TO LOCAL HIRING AT NICO PROJECT

The leadership says they were not provided a copy of the agreement until hours before the signing, despite what they say are continued requests over the course of a month to see it.

“The Tłı̨chǫ should be primary. We hear this information at the last hour, we are very disappointed with the GNWT and Fortune Minerals and how they conducted their business on this particular issue,” says Tlicho Grand Chief George Mackenzie.

The Tlicho Government say they have concerns with parts of the agreement which relate to employment and hiring targets, as well as how the agreement interacts with Tlicho rights.

Despite the disapproval, the Tlicho Government say they are committed to negotiating both an access and impact and benefit agreement with Fortune Minerals.

The NICO mine, when constructed, would be Canada’s first primary cobalt mine as well as mining gold, copper and bismuth. Cobalt is used in the manufacture of electrical car batteries as well as smartphones, tablets and laptops. Access to the proposed mine would require crossing Tlicho lands.

Location of the NICO project. Fortune Minerals map