Update: Tahltan group pushes back against Red Chris Mine
A group of Tahltan elders have set up a blockade of Imperial Metals' Red Chris Mine.
The action by the Klabona Keepers is in response to the Mount Polley Mine tailings pond breach that leaked mining waste into Hazeltine Creek and into Quesnel Lake near the town of Likely, B.C. Aug. 5, resulting in a drinking water ban and state of emergency in that area.
Imperial Metals owns the Mount Polley Mine. The company's Red Chris Mine, a gold-copper mine in development and slated to open this year, is located about 80 kilometres south of Dease Lake on Tahltan territory.
“In response to the Mount Polley Mine tailings disaster and our serious concerns over the pending Imperial Metals' Red Chris Mine, the Klabona Keepers from the Tahltan Nation will blockade the Red Chris property Friday Aug 8, 2014 at 1 p.m. Pacific time,” said the release put out by the Klabona Keepers in the morning of Aug. 8.
Testing in Hazeltine Creek and Quesnel Lake have shown initial results that indicate the water is safe to drink but the water-use ban remains in effect because Polley Lake has not been tested yet and more testing is needed.
The Klabona Keepers, members of the Iskut band, have a history of blockades in the Klappan area commonly known as the Sacred Headwaters dating back to 2005.
Meanwhile, Tahltan Central Council president Chad Day issued a statement on the council's website earlier this week saying the band has "new questions and concerns that we must discuss with Imperial Metals about the tailings ponds at Red Chris."
The Red Chris Mine does not have all of the necessary permits to operate, read the statement, and the council and company have been in the process of negotiating an impact benefit agreement.
"This latest news obviously means we have new questions and concerns that we must discuss with Imperial Metals about the tailings ponds at Red Chris," said Day.
Late this afternoon, the Tahltan Central Council (TCC) and president Chad Norman Day put out a release in response to the Klabona Keepers' action.
"TCC officials are reaching out to the group to learn more about the purposes behind the blockade. The TCC has not endorsed the actions taken by the Klabona Keepers, but they remain committed to consultation with the group, which is composed of various local members from the Tahltan Nation," said the release.
"...We share their concerns in protecting the Tahltan environment, culture and our local communities into the future. We are and will continue to do everything in our power to make sure the Tahltan Nation avoids serious environmental issues at the Red Chris Mine," said Day in the release.
He went on to say the TCC has been in contact with Imperial Metals but understands that the company's "priorities at the moment must lie with the situation at Mount Polley.
"We are following progress there closely and our hearts remain with the people affected by the disaster."