Published in Windspeaker & Raven’s Eye newspapers | September 2013 | Circulation: 145,000
Blockaders in Tahltan Nation issued an eviction notice to Fortune Minerals on Aug. 14 over the firm’s proposed $10-billion open-pit coal mine in what they say could destroy three northern B.C. rivers vital to their culture and lands.
For years Fortune’s 4,000-hectare Arctos Anthracite Project has generated opposition and controversy amongst the Tahltan. Environmentalists have dubbed the region, more than 300 km northeast of Prince Rupert, the “Sacred Headwaters.”
The land defenders have called themselves the Klabona Keepers Elders Society, and have vowed to protect the Skeena, Nass and Stikine rivers that could be affected by the project. Klabona is the Tahltan name for the river headwaters.
“We are calling on those people who have stood with us before, and who have a connection to the Sacred Headwaters, to stand with us again to protect this area once and for all,” said society spokeswoman Rhoda Quock.
Although Tahltan nation leadership were not behind the blockade – and have been engaged in discussions with the province and company for months – it says it supports the blockaders’ demands and reiterated their opposition to the project proceeding without their permission.
“We have had concerns with a coal mine in the Klappan for many years,” said Tahltan Council President Annita McPhee. “Our people want to see the Klappan Sacred Headwaters permanently protected.
“We have been fighting this development for so long. It is time to start building long-term solutions that will protect our land and culture. 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 B.C.”
The blockade is near the site of several Fortune temporary structures, which irked hunters in the area who said company helicopters were scaring game away from the rich hunting area.
In Vancouver, dozens of protesters rallied downtown on Aug. 21 in support of the blockade. They decried Fortune’s continuing work in the area despite the eviction notice and clear refusal of the Tahltan to consent to the project.