Imperial Metals may have reached an economic benefits agreement with the Tahltan Nation tied to its newly-opened Red Chris copper and gold mine but it continues to take legal action against a group of Tahltan activists and others who twice last year blockaded access to the mine site.
The legal action takes the form of being awarded more than $25,000 in court costs after successfully applying for a B.C. supreme court injunction ordering the group known as the Klabona Keepers to lift a blockade last October.
The Klabona Keepers put up their first blockade last August after the tailings pond at Imperial’s Mount Polley copper mine in the Cariboo burst, spilling a chemical sludge into surrounding water courses.
Members of the group said they were worried about the same happening at Red Chris which was in the final stages of construction last August.
It is now ramping up production through a temporary permit and is awaiting a final one from the province.
Although the Klabona Keepers took down their August blockade after playing a role in Imperial agreeing to finance a tailings pond design review conducted by a company chosen by the Tahltan Central Council, the overall governing body of the Tahltan, the group mounted its roadblock again in October.
In granting the injunction for the October blockade, Mr. Justice Robert Punnett accepted Imperial’s position that the Klabona Keepers’ blockade added costs and time to the company’s construction timetable for the project estimated to cost just over $630 million.
He further found that some members of the Klabona Keepers were repeat blockaders with some having blocked access to other projects on Tahltan territory on occasions dating back to 2006.
Although Punnett awarded repayment of trial fees to Imperial, he did not agree to the higher level first being asked by the company which would have amounted to $40,256.69.
Instead, based on his estimation of the severity of the action taken by the Klabona Keepers, he placed the costs at $26,039.69.
Court officials are now combing over Imperial’s court cost information to arrive at a final figure.
Information filed with the court includes airfare and accommodations for a lawyer and articling student to travel to Terrace late last year and nearly $9,000 worth of document copying and scanning.
Kanahus Manuel, who is not a Tahltan but who was one of those named in Imperial’s successful bid for the injunction, said no member of the Klabona Keepers has the ability to pay for costs.
“It’s still something that none of us could ever afford to pay or what any of us will ever pay them,” said Manuel of the court fees.
“The point is they are trying to charge indigenous people for trying to stand up and protect the water,” she said.
Imperial so far has declined to comment.
“This is a matter before the courts and it is our policy to not comment on them,” said Imperial vice president Steve Robertson.
Speaking last week, Tahltan Central Council president Chad Day said he was unaware of Imperial Metals acting to pursue court costs.
“The focus for all of us now has to be on working together to make our nation strong for the future,” said Day.
Tahltan Nation members voted the middle of last month in favour of an economic benefits deal with Imperial to provide revenue from the mine, jobs, business opportunities and involvement in environmental monitoring.