A Tahltan Elders-led First Nations group known as the Klabona Keepers has ramped up a showdown against a coal mining company in northern British Columbia – and the group members say they dare the company to arrest them.
The group has been camped out for more than a month at a Fortune Minerals drill site in opposition of the Arctos Athracite project – a 40-square-kilometre open-pit coal mine that is slated to be built at the heart of the Sacred Headwaters at Mount Klappan.
“We dare Fortune to get us arrested,” said group spokesperson Rhoda Quock. “We have cameras here. We will make sure the world knows what’s going on.”
Anger mounted September 17 when the provincial government issued a release about the appointment of Geoff Freer as mediator for the stand-off, which said the Arctos project would proceed.
“The government’s statement has infuriated our people,” said Iskut Band Chief Marie Quock. “Our people will never surrender our Sacred Headwaters.”
In addition to the government’s statement, the group said it has other grievances related to Fortune Minerals, including:
- a photo of a Fortune Minerals drill operator openly disrespecting Tahltan community members at the camp;
- Fortune helicopters conducting what the group said are dangerous flyovers over the camp, with heavy equipment being transported; and
- sludge draining from Fortune drilling equipment into nearby streams.
“This is not just about the land and environment,” said Chief Quock.
“It is about our people, our people’s right to use and occupy the land as they have done since time immemorial.”