Tahltan vote in favour of mine benefits agreement

The deal provides jobs, royalties, contracting opportunities for northwestern B.C. First Nation

AS much as 40 per cent of the workforce of a newly-opened mine in northwestern B.C. is to be made up of members of the First Nation on whose traditional territory it is located.

And members of the Tahltan Nation are also to be deeply involved in environmental monitoring of the Red Chris copper and gold mine owned by Imperial Metals and located near Iskut on Hwy37 North.

The two conditions are among a series making up an agreement with Imperial that was approved this past weekend by 86.9 per cent of the Tahltan who voted.

“Tahltan people have been living on our land for more than 10,000 years, so it makes sense for us to be involved in making sure our lands, waters and wildlife are protected for everyone without affecting our title and rights,” said Tahltan Central Council president Chad Day when the results of the vote were released.

Imperial has been slowly ramping up production since February through a temporary permit that was granted by the province. A first shipment of concentrate from Red Chris was shipped out of the port at Stewart April 11.

The company is now applying for a permanent permit leading to full production, including operations at its tailings pond. The pond was the subject of a review financed by Imperial but conducted by a company chosen by the Tahltan last year.

It resulted in a number of recommendations which have either been completed or are underway.

The mine has not been without controversy with a Tahltan group and others staging roadblocks to the mine last year, saying they were worried about what might happen should its tailings pond fail.

Other parts of the agreement include:

• a Tahltan environmental coordinator working at the mine, as well as half of every

environmental team on any shift are Tahltan.

• A Tahltan right to access for independent studies.

• Air quality monitoring in nearby Iskut.

• Whistleblower protection for mine employees.

• The right to seek injunctions should the mine not operate within environmental regulations,

even if the province does not take action.

• Commitment to employ Tahltans evenly from entry-level jobs to management.

• On-the-job training for Tahltan members, with financing for training initiatives.

• Tahltan employees who have obtained seniority, experience, and qualifications to be fairly

rewarded with promotions.

• Preferential hiring so that Tahltans are to be considered first for positions.

• Cultural sensitivity training for all mine employees.

• Tahltan eligibility for preferred bid contracts as well as direct award contracts.

• Advance royalty payments so that the Tahltan would benefit from the mine prior to paying off construction costs.

• Royalty payments to begin once the mine is solvent.

• Bursary fund to be administered at the discretion of the Tahltan Central Council and open to

all fields of study.

• Revenue from the mine directed to a trust, with all Tahltans having the chance to say how

revenue is best spent through a foundation.