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Tahltan set up blockade in northwestern BC
A ROADBLOCK into the Klappan area north of here yesterday spearheaded by Tahltan elders and others has coincided with a meeting between Tahltan leaders and provincial officials.
At issue is work underway by London, Ontario-based Fortune Minerals to gather information which will lead to its application to develop an open-pit coal mine in the Klappan.
The area has cultural and other significance to the Tahltan and members of the First Nation have long opposed any development there.
“They have a team that's instructed to work on the Klappan and that's what we did, we signed the Terms of Reference to work together,” McPhee said of the provincial officials, adding that the group “has agreed to look at options moving forward for protecting the Klappan.”
The meeting happened shortly after a blockade was set up on Ealue Lake Road that leads from Hwy37 North near Iskut into the Klappan Valley where both Fortune and the Tahltan have camps.
“This road was repaired so that our people can get to their hunting grounds and go to culture camp and then these guys started their trucks up there,” said McPhee of workers at the Fortune camp. “Finally yesterday one of our members blocked the road and said 'no'.”
The RCMP set up their own camp between those of the Tahltan and Fortune last month and officers have now moved to the site of the blockade which is closer to Iskut.
RCMP media relations officer Lesley Smith said officers have been speaking with both parties and that despite the blockade there have been no arrests.
Fortune has been using helicopters to do its work so far, so the blockade has not stopped the environmental work, though it did register an official complaint with the RCMP.
Fortune set up its camp in July to do preliminary environmental work.
In August Tahltan elders and other activists gave them what they called an eviction notice, shortly after which they had a meeting in the valley with Fortune CEO Robin Goad, but no resolution was struck.
Soon after that the Tahltan protestors went on drumming marches into the Fortune camp. The blockade is their most recent strategy, and the situation is beginning to look like a repeat of the 2004 blockade where RCMP intervened and arrested several Tahltan elders.
Fortune has held rights to coal deposits in the Klappan for more than a dozen years and last year signed a deal with a South Korean company to advance the project.
The deposits contain anthracite, the hardest of coals used mostly today is for a domestic fuel in either hand-fired stoves or automatic stoker furnaces in the metals industry.