News from the Stikine Frontlines

The RCMP has told Tahltan Elders and Youth who have been blockading Fortune Minerals and Shell Canada’s attempts to drill for coal and coalbed methane in the Klappan Sacred Headwaters that they intend to arrest people as early as Thursday, September 15, 2005.

The Elders and Youth have spent the last 8 weeks defending the Sacred Headwaters-the home to the first trickles of four major salmon rivers systems.  Fortune Minerals obtained an injunction on September 2 in a hearing where the affected Tahltan had no representation.

Fortune refused to postpone the hearing until the affected Tahltan’s lawyer was available. The injunction was granted because Fortune argued that it needed to complete 6 studies and begin drilling core samples and test wells in the fragile ecosystem.

The Tahltan Elders and youth that have been protecting their air, land and water were dismayed by the distorted and misleading information provided to the court by Fortune Minerals.

Last week, in an attempt to avoid a messy show down, a letter was sent to Fortune Minerals offering to allow access to personnel necessary to complete six scientific, archeological and anthropological studies.

This offer was made to show that the affected Tahltan are not opposed to development, and are interested in any information that will help inform them on the potential impacts so they may make an informed decision.

However, the letter made clear that no heavy machinery would be allowed in and no drilling could occur. As yet, Fortune Minerals has not responded to this offer.

Currently, the Tahltan are considering their options. Many people have agreed to get arrested if necessary and supporters from around BC are gathering to show support.

Recently, it was discovered that Fortune Mineral’s stock price has dropped from $6.10 to $3.80 since March. This drop coincides with when opposition to their Scared Headwaters open pit coal mining project began to build.

If Fortune chooses to proceed to arrest Tahltan and their supports, then Fortune can count on a focused intervention into the financial markets to inform their potential investors and analysts of the ongoing risks to the Klappan coal project. This ongoing opposition will inevitably raise the project’s operating and planning costs and cause delays.
And we all know how investors and analysts like undisclosed risks rising costs and ongoing delays.

The test drilling Fortune is trying to expedite this fall is just the first phase of what is quickly becoming a major struggle to develop a mine in this magnificent and culturally important area. Aggressive action now by Fortune may increase the already growing local hostility to their project.

What is becoming increasingly clear is the Fortune Minerals, an Ontario company, doesn’t understand the complicated BC political climate, nor do they understand how  to deal with Aboriginal peoples. The mistakes they are making could haunt their proposed mine and create long-term problems down the road  and create by destroying the social licence to operate in this predominately Aboriginal community.

Given the resolve the Elders and youth have shown so far, I wouldn’t bet against them. I’m sure these dedicated Elders and youth (who have already braved cold weather, rain and harassment)  have a few other tricks up their sleeve.

Dogwood Initiative will continue to keep you informed as events unfold.

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