Dease Lake, B.C. – Tahltan Central Council (TCC) has welcomed an announcement from the Province that suspends all permitting decisions for proposed coal mine projects in the Klappan area of Tahltan Nation territory until December 1, 2014.
The news is an encouraging sign for the Tahltan Nation because it has long opposed projects such as the Fortune Minerals’ Arctos open-pit coal mine that threaten the cultural, ecological and spiritual values of the Klappan, also known as the Sacred Headwaters.
Commenting on the news, TCC President Chad Norman Day said: “The Tahltan Nation opposes development in our Sacred Headwaters that threatens our people’s way of life, and does not respect our laws and responsibility to protect this area for future generations. We welcome this decision because it means we can focus on developing solutions instead of fighting over permits.
“We now have a clear path to work with the Province on developing a shared vision for protecting the Klappan, and we look forward to doing so over the coming months.”
The Province’s temporary order under Section 7 of the Environment and Land Use Act was issued September 8, 2014. It suspends all permitting decisions on existing coal licenses and tenures in the Klappan, to enable the Province and Tahltan to develop options for protected areas and land use management. It follows an earlier order made December 16, 2013 that deferred all decisions on new coal licenses or tenures over a 255,000 ha area of the Klappan. The December order did not affect projects that already had licenses or tenures, such as the Arctos project. The new order now means that all decisions regarding coal mines in the Klappan are suspended.
These interim steps are part of the larger Klappan Strategic Initiative (KSI) process started by Tahltan and the Province in September 2013. The KSI is intended to develop a shared vision for land use planning and protection in the Klappan.
The first step in the process was the completion of a joint technical report in the spring of 2014. The next step is for senior Tahltan and provincial representatives to review the report and develop options for land use management and protection that respect Tahltan culture, values and title and rights.
The Klappan is vital to the Tahltan people because it is where they hunt, camp, teach and carry out other cultural activities. It also feeds three of the region’s major salmon-bearing rivers – the Skeena, Stikine and Nass. Fortune Minerals has proposed building an open-pit coal mine on Mount Klappan that is strongly opposed by the Tahltan Nation. In June 2014 the Tahltan announced that they are preparing an aboriginal title claim to the Klappan targeting the Arctos project.