Kahkewistahaw First Nation says Mosaic has shirked duty to consult while operating potash mines in Sask.

Kahkewistahaw First Nation Chief Evan Taypotat says Mosaic has failed to meaningfully engage with the nation while operating a potash mine on their traditional territory.  (Alexander Quon/CBC - image credit)
Kahkewistahaw First Nation Chief Evan Taypotat says Mosaic has failed to meaningfully engage with the nation while operating a potash mine on their traditional territory. (Alexander Quon/CBC - image credit)

Kahkewistahaw First Nation says the Mosaic Company has failed to "meaningfully consult" with the First Nation, even as the mining giant continues to pull millions of dollars of potash from Kahkewistahaw's traditional territory.

Snow and wind whipped Chief Evan Taypotat's headdress on Thursday as he took the company to task for what he described as failures in its duty to consult and engage with Kahkewistahaw First Nation, located approximately 175 kilometres northeast of Regina.

"Today I stand here frustrated, offended, slapped in the face, but more importantly, ready to fight," the chief said.

"Mosaic Potash has lied to my people, because they can in this province we call Saskatchewan."

Taypotat spoke in front of Mosaic Stadium — a prominent example of the mark the company has left on the province.

'They'll throw you trinkets and beads': chief

Jobs and employment are at the heart of the dispute between the First Nation of approximately 2,300 people and the Fortune 500 company, which is headquartered in Tampa, Fla.

Mosaic operates three potash mines in Saskatchewan, some of which are close enough to Kahkewistahaw First Nation to be seen by the naked eye.

Taypotat says Mosaic has failed to award millions of dollars in contracts to Kihew Fabco, a metal fabrication company that is partially owned by the First Nation.

Based out of Melville, Kihew Fabco is close to the mines owned by Mosaic.

However, instead of awarding contracts to a company that would provide employment to members of the First Nation, Mosaic has repeatedly chosen companies that operate in other provinces, Taypotat said.

As a result, Kihew Fabco is now mostly empty. It employs a staff of four when it could be operating with as many as 80 full-time staff, Taypotat said.

In a statement, Mosaic said it understands the nation's frustrations, but that Kihew Fabco has been included in 109 bids for work.

"They bid on three and after working closely with them, we did award them work in 2022 in the hopes that this would lead to a mutually beneficial and long lasting relationship," the statement read.

Taypotat confirmed the fabrication company did get awarded a contract, but said it was relatively minor, especially for such a large company.

"They'll throw you bread crumbs. They'll throw you trinkets and beads and then they think you're going to go away with your little profit you've made," he said.

Taypotat said Kahkewistahaw First Nation has attempted to deal with Mosaic the "right way." He said representatives have flown to Tampa and held meetings at the company's headquarters, and invited corporate representatives to the First Nation, but have been unsuccessful in convincing them to change their practices.

Now, Kahkewistahaw First Nation is going public with its concerns to encourage the provincial government to hold Mosaic accountable and assist members of the First Nation, he said.

"Canada has failed them and I'll be damned if I'm going to let Mosaic potash and the Government of Saskatchewan run roughshod over them in their golden years," Taypotat says.

Saskatchewan First Act looms

The dispute comes after the provincial government introduced its Saskatchewan First Act, which it says will confirm the province's autonomy and jurisdiction over natural resources.

But First Nations have raised alarm over the legislation, which they say infringes on their inherent and treaty rights.

The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations says treaties only outline the sharing of land to the 'depth of a plow,' which would mean the mining of minerals and other resources are retained by First Nations and not by governments or private industry. Taypotat made that argument again on Thursday.

The province has said it disagrees with that argument.

On Thursday during question period in the provincial legislature, the Opposition pressed the provincial government on its commitment to the duty to consult.

"This government does take duty to consult seriously and that's exactly what we're doing," Lori Carr, the minister in charge of SaskBuilds, said.