by John Ahni Schertow / Intercontinental Cry
On Wednesday, May 29, citizens of the Secwepemc, Ahousaht and Tla-o-qui-aht Nations were joined by members of the Wilderness Committee, Friends of Clayoquot Sound, Clayoquot Action and others to confront Imperial Metals at their Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Vancouver, British Colombia, Canada.
Imperial Metals has a thing for ransacking indigenous lands. At the moment, they’re exploring options for two controversial mining projects in the territories of the Ahousaht and Tla-o-qui-aht Peoples within the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
Both projects–known as the Catface and Fandora mines, respectively–could have devastating impacts on water quality, ecology, and human health in the region.
The proposed Catface project, on one hand, is an open pit copper-molybdenum mine that would burrow into Catface Mountain–also known as “Chitaapi” in the Nuu-chah-nulth language– three kilometers from the village of Ahousaht. If the open pit mine is approved, Imperial Metals would quite literally skin the mountain alive. After digging in their heels, the company would use massive amounts of water and massive amounts of toxic chemicals that would remain on site long after the company leaves with their new-found riches. For comparison, have a look at the Berkley pit in Butte, Montana one of the largest “Superfund” sites in all of the United States.
The Fandora project on the other hand, is gold mine that would sit at the head of Tranquil Valley within the ha’houlthee (territories) of the Tla-o-qui-aht hawiih (hereditary chiefs). The traditional place name of the area is Eelseuklis/Onadsiilth. Little information is available on the Fandora mine, however, the Tla-o-qui-aht explain that Eelseuklis/Onadsiilth holds great cultural and spiritual importance to them. Any mining in the region would jeopardize not only their culture and way of life; it would also endanger fish habitat stocks which the Tla-o-qui-aht are working tirelessly to rebuild.
“If we allow for industrial mining in the Tofino area, or anywhere within our Tla-o-qui-aht Chiefs Territories – there is no turning back. Once completed, the disturbances associated with these types of activities, despite all efforts, cannot then restore our ecosystem back to its original, pristine state,” say the Tla-o-qui-aht.
In addition to these two projects, there is The Ruddock Creek mine, located in Secwepec territory near Tum Tum lake in the headwaters of the Upper Adams River. “The project is in the advanced stage of exploration but has not obtained the consent of Neskonlith for current or any future activities,” notes a recent press statement. “The Secwepec territory includes the Adamas River Watershed – home to the world’s largest sockeye salmon run and the location of Imperial’s Ruddock Creek lead and zinc project. The area is of great importance to the Neskonlith who continue to use and occupy the area for hunting, gathering, education and ceremonies. In addition to being the headwaters of the Adams River, the area is also home to threatened mountain caribou and grizzly bear populations.”
Then there is the proposed Red Chris Mine in the “Sacred Headwaters” region of Tahltan territory as well as the SilverDaisy Mountain mine in Stó:lô territory.
In most if not all cases, the company has failed to comply with international legal standards concerning free prior and informed consent (FPIC) and Canadian legal obligations concerning meaningful consultation and accommodation.
Just before the AGM, Imperial Metals started claiming that it is “actively engaged in building relations with the First Nation communities with traditional lands that encompass our properties,” but it is a disingenuous claim. For the most part, the company is only “building relations” with individuals and groups willing to tolerate their presence in the hopes of getting something in return. The company made no mention whatsoever of the Ruddock, Catface, Fandora or Silver Daisy Mountain mines; nor acknowledge the Tahltan’s official position on Red Chris.
If Imperial Metals doesn’t realize it yet, a few promises of jobs, presents to Elders and shallow PR gimmicks won’t be enough for all the effected Indigenous Nations to just sit back and let the company take what they want so those same Nations can spend the next 500 years dealing with the fallout.
More photos from the protest http://vancouver.mediacoop.ca/photo/sounding-against-mining-clayoquot/17705