The Tahltan Central Council is the governing administrative body for the indigenous Iskut and Tahltan bands of northern British Columbia. It represents about 5000 members living on and off reserves.
Members of the TCC have staged an ongoing protest against the development of Fortune Minerals’ planned Arctos anthracite project, which would cover about 4000 hectares in the so-called Sacred Headwaters of the Klappan in northwest BC.
As reported by the Globe and Mail and seen in a video on the Klabona Keepers Facebook page, Fortune Minerals’ drilling was interrupted Wednesday when a protest group “took over” the drill rig.
“They walked to the drill rig as it was operating, told the drillers to shut it down. There was no confrontation, the drilling staff shut it down and got off work early. A helicopter has flown the drilling crew out,” the Klabona Keepers, the active protest arm of the tribe, said on their Facebook page.
Fortune Minerals confirmed the interruption with the Globe and Mail.
“Protesters did approach one of the drills and basically because they got too close for safety purposes, the shift ended early,” said Troy Nazarewicz, head of investor relations for Fortune Minerals. “We will re-start activities as soon as it’s safe to do so.”
The protest action came on the eve of an announcement by the BC government concerning talks with the Tahltan Central Council over the future of the area.
Leaders from the TCC met with Aboriginal Relations, Energy and Mines and Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations staff last week to formulate an agreement to protect the land.
In a press release issued Wednesday, the government announced The Klappan Strategic Initiative which it says lays groundwork for long-term planning for the region.
The first step is a new working group, which will look at options for the future of the Klappan and address the economic interests and values important to both the Tahltan and the Province.
This technical working group is expected to complete its work within four months and will then go to senior Tahltan and provincial representatives for further refinement.
The Tahltan will consult with the Tahltan Nation, and the Province will consult with stakeholders as part of this process, the press release said.
The parties intend to have recommendations for their respective decision-makers by March 2014.
“This is a major step forward in the long-term planning of the Klappan,” BC environment minister Mary Polak said in the statement.
“The Province is committed to continue working with the Tahltan on this process, finding solutions that recognize and honour the places that are important to First Nations, respect the interests of third parties, and provide economic benefits to all British Columbians within a sound environmental framework.”
If developed, Fortune’s Arctos project would produce an estimated 3 million tons per annum of anthracite coal over a 25-year life span.
The project is a joint venture between Fortune Coal and a subsidiary of South Korea’s POSCO, one of the world’s largest steel producers.