First Nation renews battle on mine
Aug 16, 2013 / 6:00 pm
Dozens of First Nations protesters are blockading a proposed open-pit coal mine in a remote area of northwest BC.
The Tahltan Central Council said approximately 30 band members are demonstrating at the campsite of Fortune Minerals' Arctos Anthracite Project, located 330 kilometres northeast Prince Rupert.
The council said members are concerned the mine will impact more than 4,000 hectares of pristine wilderness.
"It's in the Sacred Headwaters, (which) is a place of cultural significance to us," said council president Annita McPhee. "It's a place that has a lot of archaeological finds of our people, and our people utilize that place right to this day."
The area, McPhee added, supports three major salmon-bearing rivers, the Skeena, Nass and Stikine.
"The central council is not involved in organizing the protest, but we can recognize how deeply frustrated our people are because they see this company pushing ahead with plans to desecrate a sacred area in our territory," she said, adding she will be travelling to the area and meeting with Fortune representatives.
"I'm there to look for solutions, but our members are pretty clear they don't want to see this place developed," she said.
The protest started after Tahltan Elders and community members served a 24-hour eviction notice to Fortune on Wednesday night. The notice expired at 8 p.m., after which protesters, who are calling themselves the "Klabona Keepers", began the blockade in an effort to "frustrate the company's operations."
Klabona is the Tahltan name for the headwaters of four salmon bearing river systems, and is located in the Klappan highlands, a traditional Tahltan hunting ground.
A spokesman for Fortune said representatives are currently at the Arctos campsite to speak with protesters, but the company's Number One priority is safety.
"We haven't sent any workers out into the field," said Troy Nazarewicz. "Until its safe to do so, no one will be working."
"Effectively, we have the necessary permits and approvals in place right now and intend to resume activities as soon as it's (possible)," he said.
Nazarewicz said the company has not yet decided whether they will pursue legal action if the blockade continues.
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