British Columbia’s Nisga’a Nation plans Indigenous-majority owned royalty company

The Brucejack mine is among several projects in British Columbia where the Nisga’a Nation holds a royalty deal. Credit: Pretium Resources

The Nisga’a Nation in northwest BC is forming Canada’s largest Indigenous-majority owned public royalty company, demonstrating the increasing power of First Nations in resource development.

A new agreement announced Thursday gives the Nisga’a a majority stake in the newly formed Nations Royalty. Vega Mining will acquire from the Nisga’a the rights to five existing annual benefit payment entitlements with projects in the Golden Triangle, in exchange for common shares in Vega’s capital. The privately-owned Vega — about which little public information is available — will be renamed Nations Royalty Corp.

The Nisga’a’s current royalty portfolio includes Newmont’s (NYSE: NEM) Brucejack gold mine, Seabridge Gold’s (TSX: SEA; NYSE: SA) KSM copper-gold-silver-molybdenum project, Ascot Resources’ (TSX: AOT) Premier Gold project and Red Mountain deposit; and new Moly LLC’s Kitsault molybdenum project.

The company is speaking with other First Nations and Indigenous groups to encourage them to join Nations, for the aim of combining royalties from mining projects and welcoming external investors as shareholders.

“Our people have a history of leadership and innovation, from significant legal victories to the first modern treaty in British Columbia,” said Eva Clayton, president of Nisga’a Lisims government. “Today, we embark on this new venture with Indigenous groups and leaders from the mining industry to promote cooperation and progress, ushering in a new era in Indigenous business, as well as Canada’s mining and natural resources sector.”

The deal comes as First Nations increasingly seek to benefit from resource development across Canada, and especially in BC, where Indigenous peoples including the Tahltan Nation and Williams Lake First Nation have reached participation agreements in mining projects. It also marks a contrast with the approach of settling disputes between Indigenous land claims and mining interests through the court system.

As part of the deal, Vega will complete a private placement for just over 11 million subscription receipts of shares at C$0.90 apiece, to raise at least C$10 million. Existing Vega shareholders will hold about 15.9% of issued and outstanding shares, the Nisga’a will hold 76.5% and investors in the financing will get about 7.6%. No timeline was given for the deal’s closing.

Frank Giustra, mining financier and CEO of Fiore Group, and now strategic advisor to Nations, said he’s honoured to collaborate with the Nisga’a and other First Nations in establishing the company.

“Almost two decades ago, I played a role in developing the metals streaming concept as a co-founder of Wheaton Precious Metals and I see Nations Royalty as a vitally important successor to this concept,” he said. “A core focus of the company is to build capacity for Indigenous people in the management of public companies and capital markets, which we hope will result in the creation of additional Indigenous economic ventures.”

Northwest BC mining veteran and Nations co-founder Robert McLeod is expected to be appointed as interim CEO and president of the company, though the goal is to have it managed and run by Indigenous people. McLeod played a major role in forming Nations and in bringing the Nisga’a and Vega together.