A growing number of Tahltan want things done differently in their territory. Besieged by dozens of mining, coalbed methane, hydro, road, and railway projects, they realize that the current path is a road to ruin.
Numerous groups in the community are saying no to concurrent development. The Elders have imposed a Moratorium on resource development to allow time to resolve internal leadership issues, consider the cumulative impacts of various projects and decide which project will suit the Tahltan’s long-term social, economic and environmental vision.
Numerous news reports continue to erroneously refer to the Tahltan that have forced Shell and Fortune Minerals to shut down their plans to develop coalbed methane and a coal mine as a “dissident” group.
This so-called “dissident” group is actually three separate groups, the Tahltan Hereditary Chiefs (Elders), the Iskut First Nations (one of the two Indian Act Band Councils) and the Tl’abnot’n Clan. Despite being dismissed in media reports, together these groups probably make up a majority of local Tahltan.
And their resolve to ensure a sustainable future should not be dismissed. The Elders have been occupying the band office for over five months, protesting a lack of transparency and abuse of leadership. And while the numbers of Elders sleeping on the floor may fluctuate-particularly during fishing season-in a crunch they can turn out the numbers.
The Tl’abnot’n Clan and their supporters are also a formidable group. When I visited the area last month, they looked me in the eye and told me that they would never allow the Sacred Headwaters to be destroyed by Fortune Minerals coal mine or Shell Canada’s coalbed methane plans.
I believe them.
The recent opposition to Fortune Minerals planned coal mine in the Mount Klappan area was predictable. It is an important area, that Tahltan leaders refer to as their “classroom”, “kitchen” and “sanctuary.” It is not a place they will alow to be destroyed.
So, on June 18th, the Tl’abnot’n Clan-the families most directly affected by the potential mine-put Fortune Minerals “on notice” about its potential infringement of their Aboriginal Title and Rights from their coal mining proposal. The company failed to respond to this notice and attempted to move into the area without addressing the concerns raised. They got stopped.
No surprise! Especially after the lesson Shell (hopefully?) learned when they attempted to take the next step in exploring for coalbed methane in the same area. The resolve of these three groups should not be ignored or underestimated.
One of the more interesting recent developments, is the public discussion of the potential impacts this recent blockade may have on the BC governments attempt to create “certainty” for the mining industry. The potential impact has been dismissed by industry and government sources. And albeit small, when viewed in connection with the moratorium imposed by Tl’azt’en Nation and the ongoing battle with First Nations over Kemess North. a trend of First Nations’ dissatisfaction with the BC Liberals’ mining policies is becoming apparent. And this could only be the beginning.
If I were an investor, I might think twice about investing in mining in BC or Tahltan territory right now.