From Tahltan Central Council:
TORONTO - The Tahltan Nation of northern B.C. (Canada) [was] honoured [yesterday] in Toronto with a national "Top 10" environmental achievement award for the recent permanent protection of the "Sacred Headwaters" from natural gas development.
The Tides Canada award will be an emotional victory, because it comes at a time when new coal mining projects are also being proposed for the exact same region, and are stirring worries. "Shell Oil may be gone from our traditional lands, but new coal mining proposals are a major concern too," says Annita McPhee, President of Tahltan Central Council.
Last December, Tahltan Central Council, Shell Canada, and the B.C. government announced the end to natural-gas exploration in the Klappan region of northwest B.C. Shell voluntarily gave up its tenure for the area.
It marked the end of years of negotiations, and a difficult struggle that included protests, road blocks, and elders being arrested.
The next steps for the Sacred Headwaters, says McPhee, will be engaging constructively with the coal mining companies. She says she is guided by elders who say economic development must be done sustainably, without poisoning the sacred waterways that are home to wild salmon and moose.
"Our concern is, mining companies are proposing to build right in the headwaters. They want to put their tailing ponds right where our people have one of our hunting camps." "We are not against economic development. We just believe the benefits should far outweigh the impacts." Off limits, she says are certain ecologically and culturally sensitive zones in the Klappan.
The Tahltans still must live and struggle with copper and gold mines that are seeking to expand and intensify within Tahltan traditional lands.