The relationship between the Tahltan Central Government (TCG) and Vancouver-based mineral exploration company Doubleview Gold has always been fraught with tension.
Now the Northwest B.C. First Nation wants the company permanently off its territory.
In a press release dated yesterday (March 17), the TCG said it is done trying to work with the company.
“The TCG made many reasonable attempts to work with Doubleview in a respectful manner but the company has repeatedly failed to conduct its activities in a manner that is consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and has chosen a path of uncertainty and conflict with the Tahltan people,” the release stated.
The conflict started in 2015 when the company was drilling in the Sheslay River area. TCG president Chad Day said this is an extremely sensitive area for the Tahltan, where some of the Nation’s elders had lived and where generations of their ancesters are buried.
Day recalled that he, another TCG member and several elders went out to tell the company they needed to stop drilling in the area approximately 50 kilometres east of Telegraph Creek. The company characterized the meeting as a blockade and later sought an injunction against the TCG and elders in B.C. Supreme Court.
In 2016, Justice Christopher Grauer dismissed the suit saying there was no evidence “the defendants threatened to commit an unlawful act, or use unlawful means, against the drillers, or that they had any intention to injure either the drillers or the plaintiff.”
Day said since then there has been intermittent activity and a refusal to engage in a meaningful way.
“They’ve continually refused to sign off on the agreements that Tahltan Central Government has in place with all mineral exploration companies,” he said. “It’s not an option for these companies, it’s not a company by company agreement or area by area agreement. Everybody that’s in Tahltan territory that’s completing mineral exploration work is expected to sign a communications engagement agreement, an opportunity agreement and in some cases an exploration agreement.”
Day said the Tahltan Nation has been a model of First Nations-industry cooperation and collaboration for decades and they are simply fed up with Doubleview.
“All the other mineral exploration companies that have come through Tahltan territory and continue to work in Tahltan territory understand these protocols, they embrace them, a lot of them are grateful for them because it makes it much easier for them to come in and establish a relationship and to establish some form of certainty,” Day said.
“I’ve never encountered somebody (Doubleview CEO Farshad Shirvani) and a company that is so disrespectful and so tone deaf to Aboriginal rights and title.”
Doubleview has yet to respond to requests for comment.
Day said the TCG will do everything in its power to eject the company.
“This company needs to go,” he said. “We are not going to tolerate from any company, we’ve given them so many chances over the years and at this point there’s no turning back, we want them out of the territory and we’re going to go to great lengths to make that happen if we have to.”
If successful, it would not be the first time the Tahltan prevailed in a standoff with industry. In 2012, the province bought back coalbed gas licences from Shell Canada.
And in 2015, Tahltan opposition to anthracite coal exploration in the Sacred Headwaters area of the Klappan Mountains led to a similar buyout from Fortune minerals.