Mediator hired to help resolve Klappan conflict

Geoff Freer appointed by government to facilitate dialogue between Tahltan and Fortune in dispute over Sacred Headwaters north of Terrace

  • Sep. 18, 2013 9:00 a.m.

A WEEK after protestors began blockading drill rigs used by Fortune Minerals for preliminary work on their proposed Arctos Anthracite coal mine in the Klappan valley, the provincial government has appointed a mediator to negotiate the dispute.

London Ont. based Fortune Minerals entered the valley to do environmental work in July for their proposed coal mine, but was met with stiff resistance from both activists on the ground and leaders of Tahltan governing bodies.

A government press release on September 17 stated that Geoff Freer, the manager of a consulting company that oversees large construction projects and former assistant deputy minister for the Ministry of Energy and Mines, was appointed to “facilitate dialogue between the Tahltan First Nations and Fortune Minerals in an effort to allow the Arctos project to proceed.”

“Government is supportive of the legal right of any company who has worked within our laws, regulations and processes” the release states, “to be able to safely perform work within the scope of their Notice of Work and subsequently the Mines Act permit.”

The website of Geoscience BC, an organization for which Freer is director, states that when he worked for the government “Geoff was known as a problem solver and leader in supporting the industry and communities across the Province.”

In a recent effort to renew a shared decision-making agreement struck in March of this year between the Tahltan Nation and the Liberal government, a working group comprised of senior government officials and Tahltan was struck earlier this month that was also charged with consulting stakeholders such as Fortune Minerals.

This week’s government press release indicating Freer’s appointment as negotiator states that “We will continue to participate with the Tahltan in that existing working group to fulfill our commitment to explore protection in the rest of the Klappan.”