MOUNT KLAPPAN, BC, Sept. 20, 2013 /CNW/ - A showdown between a Tahltan
Elder-led First Nations group and a coal mining company in northwest
B.C. is getting ugly, as protesters taunt Fortune Minerals Limited to
have them arrested.
"We dare Fortune to get us arrested! We have cameras here. We will
make sure the world knows what's going on," said the group's
spokesperson, Rhoda Quock.
The opposition group, known as the Klabona Keepers have been camped out
for more than a month at a Fortune Minerals drill site, and are now
expecting the company will file a court injunction to have the RCMP
"In fact, we think our arrests may come this weekend," said Quock.
The Klabona Keepers, numbering in the dozens, are opposing the Arctos
Anthracite project - a 40-square-kilometre open-pit coal mine targeted
for the heart of the so-called Sacred Headwaters at Mt. Klappan.
The area is the origin of three wild-salmon rivers, and a place of
profound ecological and cultural importance to the Tahltan people who
have lived there for thousands of years.
So far, the Klabona Keepers have successfully blockaded roads to the
camp, as well as access to Fortune drilling equipment, without getting
arrested. RCMP have made continuous visits to the camp.
However, the group's actions have put pressure on government to appoint
a mediator to find a solution.
But on Tuesday, a provincial press release, authorized by three B.C.
government ministers, said the mediator process would "allow the Arctos
project to proceed."
"The government's statement has infuriated our people. It suggests the
coal mine's approval is a foregone conclusion," said Iskut Band Chief
Marie Quock on Friday.
"Our people will never surrender our Sacred Headwaters."
Anger over the government release is on top of a string of other First
Nations grievances related to the Fortune project, including:
a Fortune Minerals drill operator who was photographed removing his
pants and "mooning" Tahltan community members at the camp
Fortune helicopters conducting dangerous flyovers above the Tahltan
camp, slinging heavy equipment
Sludge draining from Fortune drilling equipment into nearby streams, in
possible violation of environmental regulations
Should arrests happen - they would not be the first involving the
Tahltan and Fortune Minerals. In 2005, the company initiated a court
order that saw fifteen Tahltan arrested, including nine Elders, for
blockading the same mine project back then.
"This is not just about the land and environment, it is about our
people, our people's right to use and occupy the land as they have done
since time immemorial," said Chief Quock.
B.C. Mining Minister Bill Bennett is expected to meet with Tahltan at
the camp on Saturday to hear Tahltan concerns.
The saga first heated up August 17th, when a high profile meeting took
place at the mountainside camp between Fortune's CEO Robin Goad and
Tahltan leaders and community members.
That's also when a nine-year-old Tahltan boy, Caden Jakesta, cried as he pleaded with the CEO to not have his grandpa's camp "dug
The emotional encounter, recorded on a video now getting more than 7,000 views online, is giving the Tahltan an unexpected publicity boost.
Also promoting the cause has been David Suzuki, who wrote a nationally
publicized op/ed piece in newspapers across Canada, criticizing the
Fortune Minerals project.
The remote camp at Mt.Klappan, about 1,000 km northwest of Vancouver, is
getting a steady stream of visitors, including a federal politician,
photographers, filmmakers and journalists.
Rhoda Quock says the ongoing conflict is symbolic of historical wrongs.
"As Truth & Reconciliation events take place this week, addressing the
past wrongs of government stealing our children from our land -- it now
appears they want to steal the land from our children."
Fortune's Arctos Anthracite project is a joint venture with POSCO Canada
Ltd. — a subsidiary of South Korean steel giant POSCO.
DROPBOX PHOTOS FOR PUBLICATION:
SOURCE: Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition
For further information:
Chief Marie Quock, Iskut Band Council
Band office: 250-234-3331
Available Friday by phone.
Rhoda Quock, Klabona Keepers
via Klabona Keepers Facebook Page
Media Coordinating Contact
Shannon McPhail, Director
Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition