Coastal GasLink has suspended preparatory work on a construction camp site near Houston due to a Unist’ot’en claim of a “significant archaeological finding” on the site.
Last night the Unist’ot’en Camp issued a release reporting the stoppage: “On February 13th, 2019, two stone tools were recovered from the construction site of Coastal GasLink Ltd.’s (CGL) proposed man camp, Site 9A, marking a significant archaeological discovery that indicates a longstanding and continued tie between the Wet’suwet’en people and their ancestral territories. Coastal GasLink is legally obligated to stop work in order for a full archaeological assessment to be conducted.”
In a statement issued this morning, the company confirmed the work stoppage.
“On being notified, Coastal GasLink took immediate steps to cordon off and protect the area and requested that a qualified archeologist visit the site,” the release stated. “The Oil and Gas Commission (OGC) will also visit the site to further investigate the claims.”
The Unist’ot’en continue to insist that a proper archaeological assessment was never undertaken and despite the issuance of permits and a more recent statement by the Environmental Assessment Office that the company was in full compliance.
The Feb. 14 Unist’ot’en release cites the Heritage Conservation Act as an overriding authority to the permits and condemns CGL for not completing on-the-ground studies.
The company’s statement today admits this was the case.
“Unfortunately, during the regulatory and permitting process, CGL and its archaeologists were not able to access the 9A site due to road access issues and were therefore unable to conduct onsite fieldwork,” it stated.
However, CGL maintains it did its due diligence with its archaeological impact assessment (AIA) saying, “experienced licensed archaeologists from northern B.C. assessed the potential for artifacts at the site. The assessment determined low potential and no further work was required. The AIA was approved by the BC Archeology Branch in 2016.
“There are no known archaeological sites registered within 2,000 metres of the site, which was selected by CGL because of it being a previously disturbed area. The site in question was previously cleared and used as part of forestry work.”
If confirmed as a heritage site, the Unist’ot’en see this as a game-changer.
“The Unist’ot’en have made it clear that this site has been occupied and used continuously since time immemorial, up until Coastal GasLink bulldozed our trapline in the first stages of clearing the site,” the Feb. 14 release said.
“This oral tradition has now been reaffirmed with material evidence. We call upon the relevant authorities to immediately stop all work in this area. Permitting any further industrial activity would constitute a clear violation of both Wet’suwet’en and Canadian law.”
Lannea Parfitt, a spokesperson for the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission, confirmed that archaeologists are en route to the site to conduct an investigation.
“In response to the [Unist’ot’en] complaint, an Oil and Gas Operations officer and senior archaeologist from the BC Oil and Gas Commission, along with appropriate archaeological support staff from the Archaeology Branch, will travel to the area on Feb. 15, to conduct a site visit under the Oil and Gas Activities Act,” she said in an email.
Nevertheless, she did say that the company is not in violation of its permit.
“We take this seriously,” she wrote. “We can confirm an Archaeological Impact Assessment (AIA) report was reviewed and accepted by the Province’s archaeology branch in September 2016, and that Coastal GasLink has met the requirements of its OGC permit and determined they are in compliance.”