Tahltan shut down Fortune Minerals drill site
September 10, 2013
According to the Klabona Keepers Facebook page, members of the Tahltan’s Iskut band have shut down a drilling site maintained by Fortune Minerals:
The Tahltan have taken over Fortune Mineral’s drilling rig. When the drilling rig moved to this new location on the Iskut Band’s trapline and just behind Arthur Nole’s camp (a Tahltan Elder who is currently in the hospital), where a caribou was harvested by the Tahltan a week ago.
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.
Will keep you updated as we hear more.
The folks at Beauty camp have taken over a Fortune Minerals drill used for their environmental assessment. The drill is situated on Iskut Band’s trapline. The drill site had toxic chemicals all around it, and was right beside a fish bearing stream. They also had a diesel tank within two feet of the stream. There was no spill kit on hand.
Known as Klabona by the Tahltan people, the Sacred Headwaters is the birthplace of the Stikine, Nass, and Skeena, three of Northern BC’s major salmon-bearing rivers. This pristine wilderness has been called ‘The Serengeti of Canada’. Thousands of people from the northern interior to the coast depend upon the health of these three watersheds for their livelihood and for the wellbeing of their families and communities. In 2012, to honour the Tahltan nation and thousands of supporters, Royal Dutch Shell abandoned coal-bed methane development in the Sacred Headwaters. Part of Shell’s agreement to leave the area was a promise made by the BC government to ban all other oil and gas companies from the Sacred Headwaters, with a guarantee that further protection of the area would be discussed.
The Sacred Headwaters continues to be at risk. Without Tahltan consent, the government has given an exploratory permit to Fortune Minerals, a mining company with a plan to turn Klappan Mountain into an open-pit anthracite coal mine, 4000 hectares in size. The coal would be exported to a steel maker in Korea.
The project plan includes building 147 kilometres of railway through the headwaters to export the coal, and a 112-km power line linking the mine to the Northwest Transmission Line, a controversial project funded by the BC government that is already drastically over budget. For the past two months, Fortune Minerals has been on-site, actively test-drilling Klappan Mountain for the project’s environmental assessment. Klappan Mountain is right in the heart of the Sacred Headwaters, in the same location as one of Shell’s proposed fracking sites.
This is not the first time Fortune Minerals has pushed into the area without Tahltan consent. The mining company’s presence stretches back to 2005 when an Iskut family erected a blockade to stop Fortune from drilling twenty-five test sites on Klappan. The blockade lasted two months. By mid-September an injunction was issued, warning the Tahltan that if they did not leave they would be arrested. On September 16th, fifteen arrests were made. Nine of the people arrested were elders, and Fortune went back to the drawing board.
Once again, the Tahltan are taking a stand against Fortune Minerals. A number of families and supporters have collected at Beauty Camp at the foot of Klappan, the historic hunting camp on their traditional territory, to send a message to Fortune and the BC government that they are still strongly opposed to a coal mine on Klappan Mountain. The Tahltan issued a 24-hour eviction notice to Fortune on Aug. 16th. The company suspended activity for two days, until Fortune CEO Robin Goad could fly out from London, Ontario to meet with the Tahltan at Beauty Camp. At the meeting on Aug. 18th, Goad stated that Fortune would continue drilling.
For years, and to no avail, the Tahltan of Iskut have been requesting a police detachment in a community of 350 people. But at Klappan, an RCMP base has been set up between Beauty and the Fortune Minerals camp, complete with airplanes and helicopters. There are 6 police officers stationed at the “Klappan Detachment”, suspected by the elders to have been requested by Fortune.
At the protest camp, there is disbelief that a company’s rights trump Tahltan rights in their own territory. “We never doubt that the BC government is behind all this,” said a prominent elder. “Hopefully, this will wake up the investors, to see how we are treated in our own territory.”
Every year, the Tahltan return to Beauty Camp to practise their culture and to pass on knowledge to children and grandchildren. They come together to pick berries and to hunt caribou, moose, and other wild game. This year, the sky above the camp is filled with helicopters and airplanes hired by Fortune Minerals and the RCMP. Excessive air traffic is disturbing the people and the animals, and since Fortune’s arrival, hunting has been difficult.
Please join us to stand in solidarity with the Tahltan Beauty Camp to protect the Sacred Headwaters forever.
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