NEWS RELEASE · 24th November 2012
Tahltan Central Council
Last week, junior mining company Fortune Minerals (TSX:FT) was the target of another public protest in response to its controversial plan to build an open-pit coal mine on Mt Klappan in the heart of an area of British Columbia known as the Sacred Headwaters.
Five protesters gained entry to the “Hard Assets” mining investors’ conference in San Francisco carrying a large banner that read, “A Risky Investment: Fortune Minerals. Don't fund social conflict on First Nations Land.”
“Our community will be severely impacted as this area is where our cultural activities take place. This project will destroy a way of life for our people if it goes ahead and we have said as a community that it’s never going to happen, we will do anything we have to in order to stop this development!” said Iskut Band Chief Marie Quock.
Quock says Fortune’s claims that it is working with the Tahltan First Nation, on whose traditional territory the coal mine is located, are false. In 2006, members of the Tahltan blockaded the main access road. Thirteen Tahltan elders were arrested, putting a stop to Fortune Mineral’s exploration program on Mt Klappan.
In September the Tahltan Central Council issued a press release stating, “We want to make it clear that the Klappan area is one of the most sacred and important areas for the Tahltan people. It is a place of tremendous cultural, spiritual, and social importance. It is not an area that the Tahltan people have expressed interest to see developed.”
Fortune's mine plan is controversial because Mount Klappan sits at the centre of the Sacred Headwaters, where three of North America’s most valuable wild salmon rivers – the Skeena, Stikine and Nass – all originate. Tahltan families have long relied on the area’s moose, caribou, and wild salmon for sustenance.
The Sacred Headwaters is also the site of another controversial proposal: a Royal Dutch Shell plan to drill for coalbed methane. In 2008, the B.C. government placed a moratorium on gas drilling after strong opposition from the Tahltan and downstream communities who are opposed to development in this sensitive area.
“We are confident that neither Shell’s project nor Fortune Minerals’ will go forward,” said Shannon McPhail, executive director of the Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition. “We depend on the Sacred Headwaters to help sustain our $110 million wild salmon economy on the Skeena and we’re prepared to do what it takes to ensure this important place isn’t damaged.”