A company seeking to construct a coal mine in Tahltan First Nation traditional territory of the Klappan valley said the BC Government decision announced today to suspend new coal tenures in the area will help resolve the ongoing dispute over its own plans.
The announcement from the Ministry of Energy and Mines to defer new coal tenures applies to approximately 255,000 hectares and 62 coal license applications.
However it does not affect the operations of Fortune Minerals who is the only company with a pre-existing coal tenure in the Klappan area.
Last summer, a series of protests from Tahltan and conservation groups lead to the withdrawal of Fortune Minerals from the Klappan Valley in September, putting an early end to the field work they were doing for an an environmental review of its proposed Arctos Anthracite coal mine.
The Klappan Strategic Initiative was then formed that included members of the Tahltan nation with senior officials from several ministries, and is seeking to make a decision over the future stewardship of the Klappan area.
The new Klappan Coal Licence Deferral Area Order is for one year from now until December 2014.
Fortune Minerals official Troy Nazarewicz said that his company “welcomes their statement because they are upholding the validity of existing coal tenures and the authorizations in the Klappan area that includes ours. And we support their commitment to finding a solution for responsible resource development in conjunction with recognizing the important cultural values in the Klappan.”
“It’s similar to what we did stepping back from the site and just allowing whatever discussion they’re having to go on with less noise,” said Nazarewicz about his company uprooting their camp early in the fall because of the protests. “We are supportive of this action today.”
“The authorizations are to effectively allow us to complete the field work that is necessary for that environmental assessment,” he said.
Back in September that field work was disrupted when the BC Government asked Fortune Minerals to suspend their work so that the strategic committee could be formed.
“They asked us to step down at the end of the camp. They asked us to close up, to temporarily withdraw from the property, and we acted on that,” said Nazarewicz, adding that this was the alternative they chose to seeking a court injunction against the protestors.
“This is an interim measure that will enable further discussions with the Tahltan on a balanced solution that supports responsible resource development and recognizes the important cultural values in the Klappan,” said Minister of Energy and Mines Bill Bennett in the release.
Previously Shell Canada had sought to extract coal bed methane from the Klappan Valley but gave up its tenure in 2012 after an agreement was struck with the provincial government that gave them a $20 million credit to go toward a water treatment plant in northeastern B.C. for natural gas operations.