Another setback for Canadian metallic coal mine in Tahltan territory

Date of publication: 
9 September 2014

The government of Canada’s British Columbia, has hit the pause button on a high-grade anthracite coal mine proposed by Fortune Minerals Limited (TSX:FT) in the northwest part of the province.

On September 8, the Ministry of Energy and Mines announced it is issuing a temporary order “to defer decisions on permits and permit amendments related to existing coal tenures in the Klappan until December 1, 2014.”

Among the potential coal mines it might affect is Fortune’s Arctos anthracite project (formerly Mount Klappan anthracite metallurgical coal project) 160 km northeast of Stewart and 230 km north of Hazelton.

A Fortune Minerals spokesman characterized the move as a positive one, however, if it helps to resolve issues between the B.C. government and Tahltan First Nation through an agreement called the Klappan Strategic Initiative.

“This would facilitate an advancement of that process, so we’re pleased that the announcement’s out,” Fortune investment relations manger Troy Nazarewicz told Business in Vancouver. “We’re hoping a reasonable solution can be found for all parties concerned.”

Fortune Minerals has already spent $110 million trying to develop the Arctos anthracite project, but the London, Ontario-headquartered miner has faced opposition from the Tahltan First Nation. The Tahltan have signed an agreement on the Red Chris copper mine in its territory, but has opposed the Fortune Minerals coal mine.

The deposit is a high grade of anthracite coal, valued for its low carbon content in making steel. The mine has been the source of Tahltan protests and roadblocks.

One year ago, the B.C. government tried to smooth things over by appointing a mediator.

“Government is supportive of the legal right of any company who has worked within our laws, regulations and processes to be able to safely perform work within the scope of their notice of work and subsequently the Mines Act permit,” the government said in a press release at the time.

The government initiated the Klappan Strategic Initiative, in which the Tahltan stated that all existing coal tenures needed to be included in discussions related to provincially designated protected areas in the Klappan.

But on June 26, the Supreme Court of Canada formally recognized the Tsilhqot’in First Nation’s title to land in its claimed territory, and within hours, the Tahltan had issued a statement announcing it too would seek the court’s recognition of its own title to land – a move largely aimed at halting the Fortune Minerals coal mine.

“Given the position of the Tahltan Nation, government determined it would be appropriate to defer decisions on permits and permit amendments for existing coal tenures while discussions regarding the potential development of a provincially designated protected area in the Klappan are ongoing,” the Ministry of Energy and Mines said in a release on Monday, September 8.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Energy and Mines could not be reached for further comment.