Tahltan Nation opposes fast tracking of coal mine in Sacred Headwaters
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 “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:http://www.ceaa-acee.gc.ca/050/document-eng.cfm?document=89694
March 16, 2013 - Memorandum of Understanding between the Federal and BC governments regarding "substitution" of Environmental Assessments:http://www.eao.gov.bc.ca/pdf/EAO_CEAA_Substitution_MOU.pdf
April 2, 2013 - Project Description from Arctos Anthracite Joint Venture submitted to the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office:http://www.ceaa.gc.ca/050/documents/p80040/88265E.pdf
Dec.18, 2012 - BC Government Press Release - "Agreement brings resolution to gas tenure in Northwest" – regarding Shell Oil and the Klappanhttp://www2.news.gov.bc.ca/news_releases_2009-2013/2012EMNG0073-002054.htm