Tahltan protest coal mine plan

MARY Dennis, left, and Lillian Moyer were two of four Tahltan protesting a coal mining plan by Fortune Minerals at the Minerals North 2013 conference in Terrace this morning. - STAFF PHOTO
MARY Dennis, left, and Lillian Moyer were two of four Tahltan protesting a coal mining plan by Fortune Minerals at the Minerals North 2013 conference in Terrace this morning.
— image credit: STAFF PHOTO

FOUR MEMBERS of the Tahltan First Nation staged a silent protest this morning at the Minerals North 2013 conference while an official from Fortune Minerals spoke about a controversial coal mining project on Tahltan traditional territory.

The four held up pictures of themselves getting arrested in 2005 after Fortune successfully received a BC Supreme Court injunction to end a Tahltan blockade preventing access to the Klappan area.

Fortune acquired the rights to the Klappan anthracite coal property in the last decade and has been looking for financing and environmental approval to develop a project worth nearly $800 million.

The company in 2010 sold 20 per cent of the project to South Korean steel giant POSCO and renamed it the Arctos Anthracite Project to give it a fresh start.

It has also submitted a revised project to provincial environmental authorities.

The Tahltan and others call the Klappan the Sacred Headwaters because it contains the headwaters of the Stikine, Nass and Skeena rivers.

Of particular concern is the Fortune plan to use open pit mining to remove the coal.

Carl Kottmeier, Fortune's Arctos project manager who was speaking from the conference stage when the four Tahltan walked up and stood underneath him, said the project would consist of four small pits, becoming one large one as the mine's life went on.

The total size of the open pit would be 730 hectares and the maximum area of the pit, camps, buildings and airstrip would be 4,000 hectares, he said.

But Kottmeier also said there would not be any tailings pond in the traditional sense of hard rock mining requiring acid chemicals to extract ore, saying the coal being extracted would be washed by water before being loaded onto railcars for export through Prince Rupert.

We will ensure the water quality has been tested and inspected” prior to release, he said.

We will not be producing a slurry tailings and we will not require a tailings pond,” said Kottmeier.

There will be waste rock from the project but it will be coal that can't be separated from rock, he said.

And he said the project won't affect the Stikine or Nass watersheds.

Based on passing an environmental assessment, Fortune wants to have an anthracite operation going by 2016, resulting in two trains going to Prince Rupert every three days.

It would need to build a rail line on an existing rail bed south of its project to connect to an existing line for the trip to Prince Rupert.

Fortune estimates it has enough current reserves for a mine life of 25 years, employing 500 people directly at peak operations and another 1,000 indirectly.

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