First Nations occupy mining equipment in Sacred Headwaters

Mining company steps back from Sacred Headwaters standoff

First Nations occupy mining equipment in Sacred Headwaters
A group of Tahltans and their supporters peacefully occupied Fortune’s drill in early September

Fortune Minerals announced Monday it will voluntarily stand down from an escalating conflict with the local Tahltan First Nation. The Common Sense Canadian has been reporting on the standoff over a proposed mine in northwest BC’s Sacred Headwaters region since it began in August, when First Nations elders issued the company an eviction notice, demanding it cease exploratory drilling.

The Tahltan are upset at Fortune, which is seeking to build a controversial open-pit coal mine amid ecologically-sensitive territory. Perhaps even more so, they’ve been frustrated with Christy Clark’s Liberal Government, which abandoned a campaign promise to protect the Sacred Headwaters by fast-tracking the environmental assessment of Fortune’s Arctos anthracite coal mine.

Following several failed, emergency meetings with the company and RCMP, a statement issued by the group leading the protest late last week suggested they were ready to go to jail over the project. Said Klabona Keepers spokesperson Rhoda Quock:

[quote]We dare Fortune to get us arrested! We have cameras here. We will make sure the world knows what’s going on…In fact, we think our arrests may come this weekend.[/quote]

The group’s anger was pushed to new heights by a government press release last Tuesday, stating the province would step in to “mediate” the conflict “in an effort to allow the Arctos project to proceed.” After months of sitting on the sidelines in a conflict very much of its own making, the government’s foray into the standoff only served to inflame tensions.

Iskut Band Chief Marie Quock shot back in a Friday media advisory:

[quote]The government’s statement has infuriated our people. It suggests the coal mine’s approval is a foregone conclusion.[/quote]

In its own press release Monday, Fortune said that while it remains fully committed to the project, it “will voluntarily cease its summer field program activities and withdraw from the project site for several months to allow the Tahltan and BC Governments to continue their talks.”

Said CEO Robin Goad:

[quote]It is our sincere hope that this show of good faith by Fortune will help bring resolution to issues at and near our Arctos project site including any protests.[/quote]

Watch for updates on reaction from the Klabona Keepers and government.



About Damien Gillis

Damien Gillis is a Vancouver-based documentary filmmaker with a focus on environmental and social justice issues - especially relating to water, energy, and saving Canada's wild salmon - working with many environmental organizations in BC and around the world. He is the co-founder, along with Rafe Mair, of The Common Sense Canadian, and a board member of both the BC Environmental Network and the Haig-Brown Institute.

9 thoughts on “Mining company steps back from Sacred Headwaters standoff

  1. For your info read the ” Cassiar Iskut- Stikine LRMP ” pages 73-77 and 96-98 deal with the Klappan area. Many new protected areas were added but not Mnt Klappan, althought the drainage has a 15yr moritium on logging. I just wonder if the Talhtan can be trusted to live with agreements they have made or must we redo things every time they elect a new council ?

  2. In the year 2000 the Tahltan people signed a land use plan with the province of BC.and many other stakeholders. At that time they were aware of the coal deposit and even made allowances for road access to a gold mining property. I wonder if these protesters speak for the Tahltan people or are they just some radicals funded by some evrionmental group.

    1. Please produce this proposed agreement. To allow exploration is not allowing a coal mine. They skipped over the environmental impact assessment.

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