Tuesday » September 12 » 2006. New northern mine worries natives. Great-grandmother arrested for joining blockade to stop ‘threat’. Ethan Baron The Province
A native great-grandmother has been arrested in a bid to stop B.C.’s first new metal mine in 10 years. BCMetals Corp. believes the Red Chris mine in northern B.C. contains almost a million tonnes of copper and 1.2 million ounces of gold. But Tahltan elder Lillian Moyer, 67, who was arrested Saturday, says the proposed open-pit operation south of Dease Lake would violate sacred ground, threaten traditional hunting land and ruin fisheries.
“The land means so much to our people,” Moyer said yesterday. “We don’t want to see any development up there because it is sacred land. I am doing what I can, with great feelings in my heart, to stick up for our rights and for the land, for the future generations of young children.” Members of the Tahltan set up a road blockade June 16 to keep BCMetals from driving heavy equipment through a fish-spawning creek. On Sept. 1, the company’s application in B.C. Supreme Court for an injunction to remove the protesters was granted.
Moyer said she visited the blockade Friday night and learned that anyone arrested for violating the injunction would be prohibited from entering traditional hunting grounds on the Todagin Plateau, the site of the planned mine. “I was listening to all this and I said, ‘This doesn’t sound right. Why are we being threatened about our own traditional land that we want to protect?’”
Natives spend a month a year camped on the plateau, hunting, Moyer said. BCMetals president and CEO Ian Smith has said that “the Red Chris mine has received all necessary environmental approvals from federal and provincial authorities.”
On July 4, the company said it had temporarily suspended movement of equipment to explore the Red Chris site because trout were spawning at a creek crossing on the access road.
On Saturday, when equipment crossed the creek after RCMP arrested Moyer, oil spilled into the creek.
“[This] oil spill is our worst nightmare coming true,” said Rhoda Quock, chief of the Iskut band, part of the Tahltan Nation. “It shows what happens to our lands when development is rammed through.”
BCMetals said the spill amounted to less than a half-litre of grease and other hydrocarbons, which washed off the drilling rig and escaped catchment booms.
The Iskut also worry that toxic copper dust will blow from the mine to their community 18 kilometres away, and that leachate from waste ore will contaminate drinking water and fish-bearing streams.
BCMetals expects the mine will produce 50,000 tonnes of copper and 75,000 ounces of gold annually for the first five years. At current prices, that’s $440 million in copper and $51 million in gold.
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