Clashes between First Nations and resource companies are erupting in northern BC.
The Sacred Headwaters conflict between Royal Dutch Shell and the Tahltan is on the verge of igniting; meanwhile, in an adjacent valley a blockade has already occurred.
In a reversal of the stereotype, well-known Gitxsan activist Yvonne Lattie led a cavalry of horses and activists in a mission to occupy a Roxgold mining camp before the company’s drilling and trenching program did further damage to their traditional territory (Gwininitxw).
Apparently, the First Nations were not consulted and only became aware of the operation after the drilling had begun.
The group rode on horseback across the Atna mountain range, which lies just above the big bend of the Babine River, a tributary of the Skeena River. The range is north-northeast of Hazelton and to the west of the Sicintine Range.
On July 31st 2007, the conflict escalated when the Gitxsan erected a blockade aimed at shutting down Roxgold’s drilling program in the upper Skeena’s remote Tommy Jack watershed. They currently are awaiting a proper consultation meeting with the Ministry of Energy, Mines, and Petroleum Resources to resolve the issue.
The Ministry granted a permit for a 14-kilometer access road through a Special Management Zone without adequately engaging the Gitxsan family with jurisdiction over the area.
Following within weeks of the National Day of Action coordinated by the Assembly of First Nations, the Gitxsan blockade and the brewing conflict in the Sacred Headwaters indicate that business as usual continues in northern BC.
While resource companies like Roxgold and Royal Dutch Shell may be able to obtain injunction and arrest a few First Nations activists, their aggressive actions will inevitably backfire and create further uncertainty for their operations.
Playing chicken with northern First Nations and their NGO supporters may seem like a good idea now, but will undermine the social licence they will need to move forward with their respective projects.