DEASE LAKE, BC, Sept. 4, 2013 /CNW/ - Members of the Tahltan nation began blockading a road which leads to the site of Fortune Minerals' proposed open pit coal mine last night as Tahltan Central Council (TCC) leaders prepared for talks with Government this afternoon.
Leaders are meeting with provincial ministers to discus the impact of the proposed mine and to develop a long-term plan to protect the area surrounding Mount Klappan in Northwest BC.
TCC president Annita McPhee said: "I do understand the frustrations felt by our members, and we are doing everything we can with government on this. We are really pleased that the Provincial Government is working with us to develop a practical long-term plan for the Klappan area."
She added: "Tahltan people have played a leading role in the economic boom that is taking place in Northwest BC right now. Building an open pit coal mine on the Sacred Headwaters, which supports three salmon-bearing rivers and has been vital for hunting for thousands of years, is a step too far. It is time to be proactive about protecting our own interests and those of everyone in the region."
Chief Marie Quock of the Iskut First Nation said: "Some of our people asked Fortune to leave so that they could camp on Mount Klappan as usual without being interrupted by traffic and helicopters. Fortune refused to go, so now those people have demanded that they leave and are blocking the road."
Protesters started blocking the access road, which is also used to travel to hunting camps by Tahltan people, last night (September 3). Tahltan members are concerned that Fortune Minerals started using the road after it was repaired by the Iskut First Nation in preparation for the hunting season earlier in the summer.
"This road was repaired so that our people can get to their hunting grounds," added McPhee. "I can understand our people's frustration if Fortune is now using that road to build a project that threatens this important area."
Fortune Minerals is a junior mining company proposing a large open pit coal mine that will impact more than 4,000 hectares of pristine wilderness and destroy Mount Klappan.
The Fortune Minerals project is located in a critically important area that requires long-term management and protection to preserve cultural and ecological values for the Tahltan people, and all of BC.
Tahltan Elder-led blockades have gone on for months before. In 2005, the Tahltan blockaded Fortune Minerals from entering the Klappan. This resulted in 15 arrests, most of which were Elders, and a drawn out legal battle. Likewise, following years of similar protests, Shell Canada relinquished its contentious shale gas tenures in the Klappan in 2012.
The TCC is the Tahltan Nation governing body representing the collective aboriginal title and rights interests of all Tahltan peoples.
SOURCE: Tahltan Central Council
For further information:
For interviews or background information contact Annita McPhee, President, Tahltan Central Council: 604-754-9974