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B.C. Premier John Horgan makes historic visit to Tahltan Nation

First premier to visit the region in more than 30 years

B.C. Premier John Horgan met with leadership from the Tahltan Central Government (TCG), Iskut Band and the Tahltan Band in northwestern B.C. June 9-10, including stops at Dease Lake, Telegraph Creek, Iskut, and the Red Chris Mine.

“We stopped by schools in Dease Lake and Iskut, where I was able to speak with young people about their communities and aspirations for the future,” Horgan said in a written statement on Friday (June 10).

“I heard from local leadership and industry about the good work that is being done to bring natural resources to market in a responsible and sustainable way.”

The visit comes after the province entered into the first consent-based decision-making agreement under the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (Declaration Act) with the Tahltan Nation to reopen the Eskay Creek underground mine site as an open-pit mine.

The project will be the first of its kind to meet the consent standards set out in Section 7 of the Declaration Act for an environmental assessment. Horgan said the agreement represents a new chapter in the “long and storied history” of mining and natural resource development in Tahltan Territory.

The Tahltan Nation asserted its jurisdiction, Aboriginal title and rights enshrined in the Constitution Act, 1982 throughout Tahltan Territory in a written statement on Monday (June 13).

TCG President Chad Norman Day said the visit helped “reiterate and emphasize” the importance of delegating more authority and resources to the Tahltan people to make sure priorities in northern B.C. and Tahltan Territory are being properly addressed.

“The Tahltan people have a voice and the world is increasingly listening,” Day said.

“We as a Tahltan Nation continue to assert our collective rights in our homeland and need to see some significant changes to the way the wealth taken from Tahltan territory is redistributed and invested back into our homeland where it was extracted from.”

Horgan toured Tahltan communities, industrial projects, and other areas of concern from the air, by road and through visiting areas on the ground where he met community members and heard their concerns.

As the first premier to visit the region in more than 30 years, Horgan was joined by Bruce Ralston, Minister of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation, and Nathan Cullen, Minister of Municipal Affairs and MLA for Stikine.

Chief Marie Quock from the Iskut Band and Councillor Richard Jackson from the Tahltan Band were also in attendance for the premier’s visit and shared the challenges and priorities from their communities.

At Newcrest’s Red Chris Mine the delegation was greeted by employees, and included local Tahltan artist Huey Carlick with some of his students. At the entrance to the Red Chris Exploration Decline sits Carlick’s design of the naghā (wolverine in Tahltan), the name granted to the decline as part of an employee naming competition.

Carlick presented a version of his naghā painting to the Premier, after explaining how he conceptualized and created the piece of art. The painting has a wolverine in it, the mountain represents Red Chris Mountain and the claws of the wolverine which is digging a tunnel representing the underground project.

Red Chris General Manager Jon Gaunt joined Horgan, Day and Quock in an address to employees about the evolution of the Red Chris Mine and its relationship with the Tahltan Nation.

“We are proud of our relationship with the Tahltan Nation and are deeply grateful for our partnership and Tahltan guidance on our Red Chris project,” Gaunt said.

“Newcrest has greatly appreciated the premier’s and broader provincial support managing the COVID-19 pandemic and now with positioning B.C.’s mining industry as key to supporting the global transition to a green economy.”

Day and Horgan discussed issues in Tahltan territory surrounding wildlife management, land stewardship, jade and placer operations, highways and roads, infrastructure needs and other health and safety concerns.

Successful achievements of the Tahltan Nation over the years were recognized, including the rebuilding of Telegraph Creek following devastating wildfires a couple of years ago, economic development by the Tahltan Nation and continued capacity growth of the Tahltan governments and the Tahltan Nation Development Corporation (TNDC).

“For thousands of years, the Tahltan have mined obsidian for their families and for trade. Today, mining continues to play a significant role in the local economy,” Horgan said.

“The natural abundance of minerals in Tahltan Territory are creating good local jobs, supporting communities and helping to power B.C.’s economy.”

Mining accounts for almost 3,000 direct and indirect jobs, having attracted approximately $1.8 billion in international investments to the region from July 2018 to March 2021, according to the province.

“We recognize the inherent rights of the Tahltan to make decisions on their territory and to serve as stewards, as they have done since time immemorial,” Horgan said.

“The impact of this agreement extends far beyond northwestern B.C. When investors look to B.C., they will see a jurisdiction where shared decision-making with Indigenous Peoples is vital to predictable and sustainable development.”

READ MORE: B.C., Tahltan sign historic agreement on gold and silver mine


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