A showdown is looming in the Sacred Headwaters as the Klabona Keepers are now daring Fortune Minerals to have them arrested for blockading their efforts at the proposed coal mine.
“We dare Fortune to get us arrested,” said Klabona Keepers spokesperson Rhoda Quock. “We have cameras here. We will make sure the world knows what’s going on.”
In opposition to the Arctos Anthracite project, dozens of Klabona Keepers have been camped out for more than a month on the site, and are now expecting Fortune Minerals to file an injunction with the RCMP to have them removed. Last week, they took over two Fortune Minerals drills being used in the government-sanctioned environmental assessment process.
On Thursday, Fortune Minerals said in a press release the company’s activities are authorized through permits issued under provincial law and they believe the most appropriate forum to discuss issues is the environmental assessment process.
“Fortune respects the right to peaceful protest but it does not support illegal actions and will take all appropriate actions to protect its legal rights,” the release stated. “Fortune looks forward to working with governments, First Nations and local communities to develop a project that is a model of cooperation and environmental sustainability.”
“With respect to the rumours of an injunction, we are looking at all available options and are committed to constructive and mutually beneficial relations,” said Troy Nazarewicz, Fortune Minerals Investor Relations Manager. “As such, an injunction is an option when protestors are acting unreasonably and are set on undertaking illegal activities.”
On Tuesday, the B.C. government announced they were appointing a mediator to work out a solution between the two groups.
“Government has immediately appointed Geoff Freer as an intermediary to facilitate dialogue the Tahltan First Nation and Fortune Minerals in an effort to allow the Arctos project to proceed,” said a release from Liberal cabinet ministers John Rustad, Bill Bennett and Mary Polak.
The Tahltan said they saw this media release as an admission the government had already decided they were going to allow the project to move ahead.
“The government’s statement has infuriated our people,” said Iskut Band Council Chief Marie Quock. “It suggests the coal mine’s approval is a foregone conclusion.”
B.C. Mining Minister Bill Bennett is expected to meet with the Tahltan at the camp on Saturday to hear their concerns.
The proposed Arctos Anthracite project is located 300 kms northwest of Smithers.
The Klabona Keepers are a group of Tahltan elders and families who occupy traditional lands near Iskut and the Sacred Headwaters of the Stikine, Nass and the Skeena rivers.