Tahltan bar miners from reserve lands

The company, Fortune Minerals, said it agrees with the proposition and will be asking permission to enter reserve lands in the future

A mining company has been banned from entering Tahltan Nation communities in northern B.C. without first asking for permission from leaders.

The company, Fortune Minerals, said it agrees with the proposition and will be asking permission to enter reserve lands in the future, though the area where they are proposing their coal mine is located in Tahltan traditional territory and not on reserve land.

Iskut and Tahltan bands have both passed resolutions demanding that mining company Fortune Minerals does not enter their reserve lands without consent from leadership, said the Tahltan Central Council in a news release March 31.

Fortune is proposing building an open-pit coal mine on Mount Klappan and there has been strong opposition for years. The area is also near the headwaters of three major rivers and cherished by First Nations and others for its symbolic importance.

Videos mailed out to Tahltan residents present the Arctos project in a positive light and show president Robin Goad apologizing for the previous situation in 2006 when Tahltan elders were charged and  arrested for civil disobedience during a blockade.

According to company official Troy Nazarewicz, this was part and parcel with the environmental application which they have been trying to get together but were blocked from doing last September by Tahltan and protestors.

“We are also going to request advice on how best to communicate to their citizens and receive their input,” said Troy Nazarewicz. “We respect their direction for us to request permission to access the land.

“We do need to go back in to complete the field work that we didn’t complete last year,” he added.

Currently a governmental committee is attempting to work out an agreement on potentially protecting all or some of the Klappan and some sort of announcement was supposed to be made in March.

There is still no word from the government.

According to an environment ministry spokesperson, “the province and the Tahltan have not reached agreement on the future of the Klappan but continue to have productive discussions through the technical working group as part of the strategic initiative.”

The Tahltan press release indicates solid opposition to the project.

“Tahltan people have asked their leadership to oppose Fortune’s Arctos Anthracite Project coal mine proposal. Our people spent last year protecting the land while Fortune tried to drill in the area, and yet still they try to promote the Arctos Anthracite Project within our communities. That’s why these Band Council Resolutions have been passed. If they are not respected, bylaws which make it illegal for Fortune to enter the reserves will be considered.”

Nazarewicz said that “we are committed to the responsible development of Arctos which includes transparent open consultation with the aboriginal groups and want to ensure that any potential impact on aboriginal rights are identified and mitigated.”

The action came after reports of Fortune staff knocking on doors to promote the Arctos Anthracite Project, according to the Tahltan release, which also mentions the distribution of videos by Fortune Minerals.

The Fortune Minerals project would be located in a critically important area of Mount Klappan that requires long-term management and protection to preserve cultural and ecological values, continued the release.

The area, also known as the Sacred Headwaters, is a traditional hunting ground and feeds three of the region’s major salmon-bearing rivers – the Skeena, Stikine and Nass.

“Our people have been clear for years that proper management and protection of the Klappan area is needed, and that they will not support the Arctos Anthracite Project,” said chief councillor Marie Quock of the Iskut Band.

“The company’s efforts to lobby our people have only hardened their resolve and opposition,” said Quock of the situation.

“We expect Fortune Minerals to respect this decision of Iskut Band Council and not come on our reserve lands without prior approval from Council.”

“The Tahltan Band rejects these bush-league tactics by Fortune Minerals,” said Tahltan Band chief councillor Rick McLean.

“Our message to them is blunt – get serious, recognize that this project should not go ahead in this critically important part of our territory, and get out of the Klappan.”

McPhee added: “For years the Tahltan Central Council has made it clear to the province of British Columbia and companies, that it is ready to partner on sustainable development in Tahltan territory.

“We have a proven track record of collaborative success – including the Northwest Transmission Line and AltaGas projects within Tahltan territory.

“At the same time, we have been clear in carrying forward the message of the Tahltan people that further expansion of mining in our territory requires the protection of the Sacred Headwaters, and that if the area is not protected, it could have consequences for other projects and opportunities across Tahltan territory.”