Protect the Sacred Headwaters: Stop Imperial Metals Red Chris Mine

Leila Darwish
5 years ago
“To those who would despoil our homeland, we say this: we will never dishonor those who have gone before us, and whose bones are now part of the earth beneath our feet. Long ago our people established laws to protect the land and waters and the animals and plants that live among us. We have a solemn duty and responsibility to those who came before and those to follow to protect this place. It is a Sacred Trust given to us, and which no one can deny. ” 
- excerpt from the Tl’abane Declaration, Kablona Keepers
Imperial Metals, the mining company responsible for the largest mining disaster in B.C.'s history - the ongoing Mount Polley Mine disaster- will be seeking the final permit to open its controversial and highly contested Red Chris mine in the Sacred Headwaters of northwestern B.C. The B.C. Ministry of Environment is currently reviewing the permit that would allow Imperial Metals to start discharging into their tailings pond and open the Red Chris Mine. 
The Klabona Keepers of the Tahltan First Nation have blockaded the site of the Imperial Metals' Red Chris copper and gold mine several times this year. Watch this video of the Kablona Keepers and the Sacred Headwaters. The Keepers are a group of elders and families who live on and use the Tahltan’s traditional lands near Iskut known as the Tl’abāne, the Sacred Headwaters of the Stikine, Nass and Skeena Rivers. The massive mine project threatens their culture, people and the wild Sacred Headwaters watershed.   To learn more about the Kablona Keepers and read their Klappan Declaration, click here.  Watch this video of their recent blockade, click here. 
The Red Chris mine would build an open pit on Todagin Mountain, which overlooks the nine pristine lakes of the Iskut/Stikine headwaters, home to some of the best trout fisheries in Canada. It is home to the largest concentration of Stone sheep in the world, as well as other wildlife including grizzly bears, wolves, wolverines, black bears and mountain goats.  The Red Chris mine was scheduled to open in the fall of 2014, but was delayed in the aftermath of the Mount Polley mine disaster.
Here are 9 reasons to say NO to Red Chris mine: 
  • The proposed tailings pond for Red Chris is far larger than that of the Mount Polley Mine. It has a similar design to the Mount Polley tailings pond , now famous for its catastrophic dam breach that unleashed approximately 25 million cubic metres of toxic heavy metals and chemical laden tailings water and sludge into Polley Lake, down Hazeltine Creek, into Quesnel Lake and onto the Quesnel River which directly connects to the Fraser River Watershed.
  • The Red Chris 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. The tailings that would be generated by the mine  would include crushed rock, water, heavy metals and chemicals from the mine's mill. The mine will release untreated mine water into a creek that eventually flows into the salmon-bearing Stikine River.
  • Even though an independent review by Klohn Crippen Berger found the Red Chris tailings facility design to be "feasible" if constructed properly, it also revealed a host of problems with their tailings pond design, including the risk of seepage and leakage from the storage facility. The review includedmade 22 recommendations, among those being for a liner to prevent seepage and that Imperial Metals had not done enough work to even predict how bad he seepage would be. The review also raised the concern to further study the risks associate with the Kluea landslide, whose crest is about 300 metres from the eventual pit rim. The landslide could potentially let loose and hit the mine site, resulting in an uncontrolled release of contaminated water. 
  • The review also identified a number of items that were lacking for the Red Chris Tailings facility including emergency response plans, an operating, maintenance and surveillance manual for the tailings facility, and studies to detail what would happen if there was a tailings dam collapse. 
  • The tailings at Red Chris are considered to be much more acidic than those at Mount Polley. Should a failure occur at Red Chris similar to what happened at Mount Polley, the consequences could be far more devastating due to the increased acidity of the tailings. The independent review noted that “any failure of the Red Chris impoundment will likely have a much more significant environmental impact than the Mount Polley failure. 
  • By pushing the Red Chris mine ahead, Imperial Metals and the provincial government are ignoring the Kablona Keepers Indigenous rights and title on unceeded land. The mine will lead to the contamination and destruction of the lands and waters that they've hunted, fished and lived off for thousands of years. It could also affect their home community of Iskut, which is only 18 kilometres from the mine site.  Watch this video from the Kablona Keepers to learn more about the impacts. 
  • The Red Chris mine has been heralded as Imperial Metals new cash cow. If successful, it could help Imperial Metals to finance its other destructive mining projects. These projects include two proposed mines in Clayquot Sound (a copper mine at Catface Mountain in Ahousaht territory and the Fandora gold mine on Tla-o-qui-aht territory), and the Ruddock Creek lead and zinc mine in Secwepemc territory at the headwaters of the Adams River. The Ruddock Creek mine threatens some of the most important watersheds and salmon runs in Secwepemc territory, including the Adams River run, the world's largest remaining sockeye salmon. 
  • Imperial Metals now has a proven record of putting profits before safety, cutting corners, and neglecting the multiple warnings about a tailings dam breach from its own workers, independent consultants, and government officials.  Do we really want another Mount Polley mine disaster in the Sacred Headwaters with the Red Chris mine? 
  • Billionaire Murray Edwards is Imperial Metals largest shareholder and he is also the chairman of tarsands giant CNRL, a company now infamous for its tarsands spill in Alberta that it has been unable to clean up since 2013. Edwards is also one of the biggest donors to the B.C. Liberals, having made major campaign contributions to both Premier Christy Clark and Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett. And you get what you pay for. The BC government has a dismal record of rubber stamping and fast tracking mining approvals, not holding companies accountable or enforcing regulations, and failing to invest in the necessary monitoring of these mining projects.  

These reasons show that the Red Chris mine is a recipe for disaster in the Sacred Headwaters that will put communities and watersheds at risk.  

Photo by Paul Colangelo

Photo by Paul Colangelo
TAKE ACTION! Tell the B.C. Government to say "no" to Imperial Metals Red Chris mine and protect the Sacred Headwaters
The provincial government must hold polluters responsible. Imperial Metals is responsible for the worst environmental disaster on record in this province. It must not be rewarded with another mining permit to simply move on to greener pastures to increase its profits and make another killing. To date, Imperial Metals has not been able to clean up its Mount Polley mine disaster, which happened on August 4, 2014. If the provincial government approves this Imperial Metals Red Chris mine permit, it will be setting a dangerous and destructive precedent for all forms of extractive companies in B.C.: No clean up, no consequences! 
The Sacred Headwaters must be protected! Frontline communities across B.C. are pushing back against Imperial Metals destructive mining projects - will you join them? 

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