Tahltan Nation opposes fast tracking of coal mine in Sacred Headwaters

Date of publication: 
7 June 2013

ISKUT, BC – Tahltan Central Council wants to remind Premier Christy Clark and her new cabinet of a B.C. Liberal election promise to protect the Sacred Headwaters of the Klappan in northwest B.C.

The First Nations authority, representing some 5,000 Tahltans, is concerned that an environmental review of the controversial Arctos Anthracite coal mine proposed for Tahltan territory is being fast tracked — at odds with a Liberal election promise to work to protect the same Klappan region.

The 2013 B.C. Liberal election platform document states that the provincial government will “examine the feasibility of a provincially designated protected area in The Klappan.”

But last week, at the request of the provincial government, federal Environment Minister Peter Kent granted B.C. the right to conduct an environmental assessment on Ottawa’s behalf. This means that only one environmental assessment, controlled by B.C.‘s Environmental Assessment Office, will occur instead of the usual two assessments – one provincial, one federal.

The Arctos Anthracite Coal mine is a proposed open-pit mine that threatens to irreparably damage the Sacred Headwaters of the Stikine, Nass and Spatsizi rivers of the Klappan.

Tahltan Central Council President Annita McPhee said a higher level of scrutiny is required.

“We were very disheartened by the B.C. government’s attempt to fast track the environmental review of this ecologically and culturally destructive Arctos coal mine project,” McPhee said Friday.

“It appears to be at odds with the Premier’s election pledge to work on protecting the Klappan.”

The federal decision means only the British Columbia Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) will assess the project and conduct required Aboriginal consultations.

The coal mine is a joint venture between Fortune Minerals and a subsidiary of South Korea’s POSCO – one of the largest steel producers in the world.

The project proposes to operate in The Klappan for 25 years, producing three million tonnes of anthracite coal per year to be shipped to steel producers in Asia. The mine plan includes a new railway line to ship the coal south for export through Prince Rupert.

Tahltans have successfully mounted opposition to industrial projects in The Klappan before. Last December, after years of roadblocks, protests and international attention, Shell Oil announced it abandoned its plans for coal bed methane extraction from the region.

“The Klappan is sacred to the Tahltan people. Our people practice our hunting, fishing, and traditional cultural activities there. It’s why we’re fighting so hard to protect it,” said McPhee.

The Arctos Anthracite project would impact 4,000 hectares of pristine wilderness, according to documents provided to the B.C. government by the Arctos Anthracite joint venture partners.

McPhee said Ottawa should never have been “offloaded” its role in reviewing resource developments to the B.C. government alone.

“Canada has a responsibility to consult with our Nation, and recognize, respect and protect our Aboriginal title and rights. It cannot do this by delegating its consultation and environmental assessment responsibilities to the B.C. government.”


May 31, 2013 – Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency’s notice regarding Arctos Anthracite project:

March 16, 2013 – Memorandum of Understanding between the Federal and BC governments regarding “substitution” of Environmental Assessments:

April 2, 2013 – Project Description from Arctos Anthracite Joint Venture submitted to the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office:

Dec.18, 2012 – BC Government Press Release – “Agreement brings resolution to gas tenure in Northwest” – regarding Shell Oil and the Klappan

SOURCE: Tahltan Central Council
For further information:

Media Contact:
Annita McPhee, President, Tahltan Central Council
cell: (604) 754-9974
annitamcphee [at] gmail [dot] com


Fortune Minerals needs to abandon its mine plan

By Shannon McPhail – http://www.terracestandard.com/opinion/203928861.html

24 April 2013

Let’s go back to 2005.

Eskay Creek was winding down and Galore Creek was planning the next big mine but there was little certainty that anything would go through. The safe assumption would be that communities would jump at the chance for jobs in the mining sector on an emerging project like Fortune Minerals.

Three commonly known rules in building a successful business: Location, location, location.

Fortune’s open-pit coal mine they call Arctos Anthracite, proposed for Mt. Klappan, rises above the iconic valleys of the legendary Spatsizi Wilderness Plateau in the heart of the Sacred Headwaters. Generations old Tahltan hunting camps dot the caribou rich flanks and the headwaters of the Nass, Skeena and Stikine are visible from the summit.

Fortune Minerals pushed hard even though community members turned down their jobs and blockaded the company in order to protect the culture and hunting values they have at Mt. Klappan.

Like a bully in the playground, Fortune had 15 community members arrested, including 13 elders from Iskut. These arrests rattled the community and broke the hearts of the grandchildren who stood helpless as their grandparents were carted away in handcuffs. This sparked an international campaign to protect the area from large-scale industrial development.

It was Fortune’s arrests that uncovered Shell’s plans to drill for coalbed methane.

The Tahltan Nation collaborated with downstream residents to oppose Shell’s ill-conceived idea while Fortune waited quietly in the background. Municipal governments and First Nations from all three watersheds supported a unified campaign to protect the Headwaters. It didn’t make sense to transform the source of our wild salmon rivers into an industrial wasteland.

In 2008, the province responded with a four-year moratorium on coalbed methane in the headwaters.

In December 2012, Shell voluntarily withdrew its plans and the BC government permanently banned all future oil and gas activities citing, “The Klappan is an area that has been identified by the Tahltan Nation as having significant cultural, spiritual, and social values. It is also an area of vital salmon-bearing waterways such as the Stikine, Nass, and Skeena rivers, and as such has importance for all British Columbians who rely on those rivers.”

Just as Shell’s plans headed to the shredder and the BC government commits to a planning process with the Tahltan for the headwaters, Fortune Minerals rides in on its black horse kicking up dust in everyone’s eyes. The Tahltan and communities didn’t fight for 10 years to protect the headwaters so Fortune could proceed with an open-pit coalmine right in the heart of it.

The only thing standing in the way of permanent protection is Fortune Minerals.

Let’s have Fortune admit the truth, their mineral claims are in an unfortunate location. Their plan to reconstruct the 60-year-old crumbling railway from Fort St. James to Dease Lake and run 24,000 tonnes of coal every three days for 25 years is an irrevocable blow to the Klappan and upper Skeena river. That’s 100km of railway right beside our pristine Skeena as it flows from the Sacred Headwaters.

A 1977 BC Royal Commission into the condition of this abandoned railgrade regarded it, “...as one of the most serious unresolved environmental problems in British Columbia.”

Those problems continue to this day and Fortune’s proposed reconstruction of the railway for an industrial corridor would drastically increase the likelihood that other companies will jump on the train and pursue lesser known coal tenures scattered along the Skeena and its headwater tributaries. Our wild salmon and steelhead swimming through it all.

The mining sector has a whole lot going for it along Highway 37 – mining, exploration, hydro projects, transmission lines, etc. all moving forward. What we need in the Sacred Headwaters are healthy rivers, wild salmon and areas of cultural identity that we can share with our children.

Will Fortune Minerals continue to waste taxpayer time and money on this bad idea when we know it will never happen?

Shannon McPhail is the Executive Director of the Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition and the 2013 recipient of the Northern BC Community Enrichment Award.