At SkeenaWild we try to make sense of which mines are doing it right, and which ones are too risky for communities and the land. We also try to hold the government regulating these mines – and the companies that abandoned them – to account and ensure dangerous mines are cleaned up after they shutdown operations. But in many cases it’s difficult, largely due to poor regulations and minimal bonds required by the government to clean up the mess left behind.
This is most evident with the Gitxaala Nations’ current league challenge of the Government of B.C.’s Mineral Tenures Act which allows anyone with a computer and a few dollars to claim ministerial rights to any known deposits within the province without having to notify the communities or Indigenous Nations where the claims are being staked.
In April 2023, after more than a year of preparations, the Gitxaala Nation launched their much anticipated legal challenge of B.C.’s mineral tenures act in B.C. Supreme Court, which they say has impacted their territory and salmon populations, as well as other marine sustenance, which their people have relied on for several millennia.
This case has huge potential to change the way minerals are claimed in B.C. and the future of mining as we know it. It could also chart a path forward when it comes to Indigenous land claims and reconciliation in this part of Canada, but there is a long road ahead.
For many years now SkeenaWild has been working with various partners and Indigenous Nations to ensure mines are accountable in all respects. And to pressure governments to strengthen environmental assessment processes that approve mines, and also bonds that would be earmarked for clean up if a mine goes bankrupt, an all too familiar sight in Northwest, B.C.
We also try to hold companies to account during that process. Reviewing proposals for their legitimacy and accuracy, using expert and biologists to analyse and research mine proposals to make sure their on the level, and to call out dangerous mines that plan to discharge toxic water back into the environment. Advocating for changes if a mine is going to impact sensitive habitat, wildlife or salmon and steelhead.
One such mine going through the environmental review process is know as Telkwa Coal, which plans to build a large cola mine just seven kilometres from the small community of Telkwa along the Bulkley River, a major tributary of the Skeena.
For nearly two years now SkeenaWild’s mining researcher, Adrienne Berchtold, has been looking into the Telkwa Coal proposal, raising concerns about the lack of information the company provided to the BC Environmental Assessment Office and the potential risks posed to local drinking water, a dwindling Caribou herd and especially salmon and steelhead.