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The Klabona Keepers blockade the Red Chris mine over water concerns

Photo by Annita McPhee via Twitter

The Klabona Keepers of the Tahltan First Nation have blockaded the site of the Imperial Metals’ Red Chris copper and gold mine. The Keepers are a grouping of elders and families who live on and use the Tahltan’s traditional lands near Iskut known as the “sacred headwaters of the Stikine, Nass and Skeena Rivers.” The mine is scheduled to open in October or November of this year.

Yesterday, the Klabona Keepers stated, “In response to the Mount Polley mine tailings disaster and our serious concerns over the pending Imperial Metals Red Chris mine, the Klabona Keepers from the Tahltan Nation will blockade the Red Chris property Friday August 8, 2014 at 1 p.m.” Their statement did not say how long the blockade would be in place.

Tahltan Central Council president Chad Day says the Mount Polley tailings disaster “obviously means we have new questions and concerns that we must discuss. To date, no IBA [impact and benefits agreement] has been signed and the mine does not have all of the permits required to open.”

The Red Chris mine site is located about 80 kilometres south of Dease Lake on Tahltan territory. Assembly of First Nations B.C. Regional Chief Jody Wilson-Raybould says, “This area is upstream from the Fraser River and is a major spawning ground for salmon, both of which are integral to Indigenous peoples’ culture and way of life.”

Last July, the Tyee reported, “Tailings generated by the Red Chris mine – a collection of fine crushed rock, water and chemicals from the mine’s mill – will eventually be deposited into a Y-shaped valley bottom, contained at each end by large dams. The tailings storage facility as planned straddles the headwaters of three local watersheds, and is downstream of both the Klappan River and a chain of large lakes draining into the Iskut River. Containing potentially acid-generating rock, much of the tailings will need to be submerged in water for ‘perpetuity.'”

A confidential industry-funded review acquired by the Tyee found that more study would be needed to understand how the estimated 300 million tonnes of tailings from the mine would affect the water in the upper Stikine watershed.

Imperial Metals is also proposing the Ruddock Creek lead and zinc mine near Tum Tum lake at the headwaters of the Upper Adams River in the territory of the Neskonlith and Secwepec. And they are planning a copper mine at Catface Mountain in Ahousaht territory and the Fandora gold mine on Tla-o-qui-aht territory.

There are about 20 operating mines with similar tailings pond dams in British Columbia.

The Council of Canadians will be participating in a protest against Imperial Metals in Vancouver on Monday August 11 at 2:00 p.m. local time. More information on that can be found here.

Photo by Annita McPhee via Twitter