Red Chris mine owner Imperial Metals has been granted an injunction preventing a Tahltan group known as the Klabona Keepers from blocking access to the property north on Hwy37 North near Iskut.
The injunction, granted by Mr. Justice Robert Punnett of the B.C. Supreme Court this afternoon following a two-day hearing, prevents the activist group from blocking access to the mine until another claim against the Klabona Keepers is resolved in which Red Chris is seeking damages.
The injunction means that an enforcement order can be sought by the RCMP if access to the Red Chris gold and copper mine is impeded by the protesters.
Imperial is also seeking the repayment of the cost for the court filings from the Klabona Keepers, who will have a chance to respond in writing to the claim before the judge decides if they have to pay.
And in the parallel court filing, Imperial is also seeking damages for the disruption caused to construction at the mine which is scheduled to open soon.
According to Klabona Keepers legal advocate Anushka Nagji, who along with Tahltan member Oscar Dennis was one of two named defendants speaking to the court during the two-day Terrace hearing, the outcome was not a surprise.
“Things went basically as expected,” she said. “Injunctions like this get granted all the time by B.C. courts, and specifically get granted against aboriginal rights and title.”
Nagji said that her attempt to invoke the Tsilhqot’in Supreme Court of Canada decision this summer which strengthened native title as precedent wasn’t effective in this type of case, though the final reasons for the judge’s decision won’t be released until later.
“I imagine the reasons and tests for whether an injunction is granted or not are very narrow legal tests and narrow issues, and generally judges can’t consider the Tsilhqot’in ruling or rights and title issues, or say they can’t anyway, in injunction cases,” said Nagji.
With negotiations planned between the Iskut Band Council and the Tahltan Central Council, Nagji said that today’s ruling is not the end of the debate surrounding the acceptance of the mine in the Tahltan community.
“It doesn’t make a difference to the actions being taken within the Nation as far as I understand,” she said.
Dennis said he thought the Klabona Keepers are defending the environment for all British Columbians but that todays’ ruling will limit their role.
“We thought that unlike others in B.C. our hands weren’t tied. But they demonstrated today that this is not the truth. Our hands have just been tied,” said Dennis.
Editor’s note: this article was revised for accuracy. The injunction is not permanent as first reported.