BC First Nation blocks road to proposed coal mine

5th September 2013

By: Henry Lazenby

Creamer Media Deputy Editor: North America


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TORONTO ( – Members of the Tahltan First Nation, in British Columbia (BC), on Tuesday began blockading a road leading to project developer Fortune Minerals' proposed openpit coal mine and which is also used to travel to traditional hunting camps, as Tahltan Central Council (TCC) leaders prepared for talks with government on Wednesday.

Tahltan community members said they were concerned that Fortune started using the access road after the Iskut First Nation, in preparation for the hunting season earlier in the summer, repaired it.

The First Nation said in a statement that its leaders would meet with provincial Ministers to discuss the impact of the proposed mine and to develop a long-term plan to protect the area surrounding Mount Klappan in the north-west of the province.

“Building an openpit coal mine on the Sacred Headwaters, which supports three salmon-bearing rivers and has been vital for hunting for thousands of years, is a step too far. It is time to be proactive about protecting our own interests and those of everyone in the region," TCC president Annita McPhee said.

Chief Marie Quock of the Iskut First Nation explained that some of the community’s people asked Fortune to leave so that they could camp on Mount Klappan as usual, without being interrupted by traffic and helicopters. “Fortune refused to go, so now those people have demanded that they leave and are blocking the road."

Another First Nation in the province, the Tsilhqot'in, in July also warned that it would oppose base metals producer Taseko Mine’s proposed New Prosperity mine, in the Cariboo-Chilcotin region of BC, imploring the federal government to listen to community members, scientists and the public who were condemning the proposal for what it sees as “an environmental and cultural disaster”.

Tahltan elder-led blockades have gone on for months before. In 2005, the Tahltan blockaded Fortune from entering the Klappan. This resulted in 15 arrests, most of which were of elders, and a drawn-out legal battle. Likewise, following years of similar protests, Shell Canada relinquished shale gas tenures in the Klappan in 2012.

The BC government in December 2012 announced an agreement to resolve the status of natural-gas tenure in the area, which saw Shell Canada withdrawing its exploration plan and relinquishing its tenures.

The BC government also said it would not issue future petroleum and natural-gas tenure in the area.

The tripartite agreement between the provincial government, Shell Canada and the TCC followed the Klappan area being identified by the Tahltan Nation as having significant cultural, spiritual and social values.

It is also an area of vital salmon-bearing waterways such as the Stikine, Nass, and Skeena rivers, and as such “had importance for all British Columbians who rely on those rivers”.

Fortune and its joint venture partner PosCan in August changed the name of the Mount Klappan anthracite metallurgical coal project to Arctos in an effort to declutch the project from the Klappan traditional area.

Fortune did not issue a statement on the blockade.

The company had previously said that production from its Arctos project would be delayed by a year to 2016, as a result of permitting delays.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter


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