Klabona Keepers head to court over Imperial Metals mine blockade

"Klabona Keepers" protest to shut down Red Chris mine. Photo Credit: Hannah Campbell

The ‘Klabona Keepers,’ a group of Tahltan elders and families who occupy traditional lands near Iskut, BC, will arrive in court today  to hear Imperial Metals Corporation's injunction request, as the Tahltan Nation’s (among other groups) road blockade of the Red Chris copper and gold mine continues.

The legal preceding began after the ‘Klabona Keepers’ and members of Secwepemc Nation occupied a drill site in Tahltan territory, an area in the heart of the Sacred Headwaters, for nearly two months. 

According to a press release, the group fears that a sudden failure in the company's dam could have catastrophic results similar to Imperial's Mount Polley mine's toxic tailings pond spill.

When its dam broke in August, the press release said billions of gallons of toxic wastewater was released into the river, which was host to the second largest salmon run in the world. 

"The bigger the dam, the higher the risk," the press release said. "The Imperial Metals Red Chris mine's storage facility in Tahltan territory is much larger and uses the same structure and technology as the Mount Polley Mine and so It is not a question of if, but when the storage facility would breach and destroy yet another integral salmon-bearing watershed, the Stikine River in Tahltan territory."

While Imperial Metal’s injunction request against the group asks it to take down the blockade, it also includes an enforcement order, according to the company. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have stated that they will not act on the court order for an injunction without the enforcement order.

“Imperial has made a huge mistake. They’re already in the media and it’s known all over the world what they have done at Mount Polley,” said the spokesperson for ‘Klabona Keepers’ Rhoda Quock. 

Quock explained that this demonstration affects everyone, especially if Imperial can walk away from the Mount Polley disaster without the government holding the company responsible. The protestors are not willing to break down the blockade so easily, added Quock.

“The government’s doing next to nothing, and it’s been how long? If they (Imperial) can walk away from that and just be ready to put another mine in production, what does that tell everyone throughout BC and other companies,” asked Quock. “That this could be done and they could walk away. How many times does this have to happen before the companies are held accountable?"

BC Mines minister Bill Bennett said he visited the Tahltan leaders to discuss the ongoing blockade in August, but the meeting did not lead to any resolution, Quock said.

With the court hearing nearing, Quock says the protesters' “spirits are high,” and that no matter how the proceedings go, they “will be prepared.”

Update: The court denied Imperial Metals permanent injunction, according to a press release. The mine development company was granted an interim injunction, but the requested enforcement order was not approved, which will prohibit the RCMP from making any immediate arrests. The enforcement order will take effect on Oct. 14.


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