IMPERIAL METALS has begun legal proceedings which could result in a supreme court injunction ordering a faction of the Tahltan Nation along with other groups and individuals to take down a blockade which has barred access to the company’s nearly-completed Red Chris copper and gold mine near Iskut.
Speaking on the weekend, Imperial vice president Steve Robertson said the company has filed what is commonly called a short form notice which states it is prepared to file for a formal injunction to take down the blockade which went up Sept. 29.
“Obviously it’s always our first option to solve these things diplomatically and with reason and we are hoping that this is still the case,” said Robertson Oct. 4.
The Tahltan group, which is called the Klabona Keepers, has been joined by members of the Secwepemc Nation on whose traditional land Imperial’s Mount Polley copper mine in the Cariboo area is located.
Criticism of the company following the collapse of the Mount Polley tailings pond Aug. 4 has now been transferred to the tailings pond at its Red Chris operation which is due to open this fall.
The Klabona Keepers put up an initial blockade in August which was then taken down after Imperial agreed to finance an independent review of Red Chris tailings pond by a company chosen by the Tahltan Central Council (TCC), the overall governing body of the Tahltan Nation.
At that time the Klabona Keepers appeared to have agreed with the Imperial/Tahltan Central Council plan.
“We don’t think there is a good reason for [the current blockade]. We understand there are some outside forces that have come in that are very active on the blockade,” said Robertson.
Robertson added that the company needs access to the mine to move in supplies and to transport employees.
Work to fully connect the mine to BC Hydro’s Northwest Transmission Line to provide power needed to run the operation has yet to be completed.
At the same time, Imperial still needs a permit to discharge effluent from the mine.
That’s under consideration by the provincial government and the company has offered to take a pause on that permit to allow time for the independent tailings pond design assessment to take place, mines ministry David Haslam said last week.
The Tahltan Central Council has maintained distance from the Klabona Keepers, while at the same time saying it has represented their interests in negotiations with Imperial.
“The TCC has cooperated with those protesters that speak for some of our people. When the first roadblock occurred in August, we worked with them to make sure that their demands and the requests of the TCC were included in ongoing conversations and agreements,” said the council in a statement.
It adds that an agreement with Imperial will hinge on a vote held by Tahltan members.
“No agreements on Red Chris will be made without the support of a vote, and we are committed to listening, communicating and answering our people’s questions at this critical time,” said the statement issued before Imperial began its legal action.