DEASE LAKE, BC, Sept. 22, 2023 /CNW/ - Leaders from the Tahltan Central Government ("TCG"), Iskut Band, and Tahltan Band are acknowledging the results of a recent decision by the Province of British Columbia (the "Province") to reject the issuance of a Mineral Exploration Permit for a proposed project located within a culturally significant area of Tahltan Territory. Tahltan Nation has been entrusted with preserving and protecting Tahltan Territory since time immemorial, which is essential for the survival of the Tahltan way of life, physical, spiritual, and mental well-being in line with Articles 8, 18, and 26 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People ("UNDRIP"). Tahltan are the rights holders for Tahltan Territory under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.
Tahltan Nation expressed its forceful opposition to the potential issuance of a Mineral Exploration Permit for Torr Metals' "Latham Property" located in the Gnat Pass region, a culturally significant part of Tahltan Territory where Tahltan Nation does not support mineral exploration or mining operations. Torr's application for the permit triggered a Shared Engagement Record process under the Shared Decision-Making Agreement between the TCG and the Province.
In response to Torr's permit application, TCG facilitated extensive community engagement that collected input from Elders, Knowledge Holders, and Tahltan Leadership. Tahltan Nation has consistently emphasized that mere consultation with several stakeholders by proponents does not constitute robust engagement. Tahltan Nation also emphasized that Provincial approval of the permit without Tahltan's free, prior, and informed consent would undermine the Province's commitment to reconciliation with the Tahltan Nation and respect for Tahltan Title and Rights, as recognized by UNDRIP and as implemented in British Columbia by the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act ("DRIPA").
The Province's decision to reject Torr's permit application follows on the heels of a Tahltan decision that also rejected the project. Tahltan Nation considers the Province's decision to be consistent with Tahltan opposition to Torr's proposed project and supportive of Tahltan Nation's exercise of its inherent jurisdiction over all lands and waters in Tahltan Territory. Provincial recognition of and alignment with Tahltan authority is a necessary step towards a co-governance relationship between the two governments and a core evolution towards fostering the Tahltan vision of a sustainable "world class" mining jurisdiction.
While this decision is a victory for Tahltan Nation, much remains to be done. Nearly 24,000 coal, mineral, and placer claims have been issued historically in Tahltan Territory by the Province without Tahltan consent. This raises serious concerns about the outdated approach to mineral tenure staking under the Province's deeply colonial Mineral Tenure Act. As Canadian law moves towards the standard of free, prior, and informed consent, as recognized by British Columbia's enactment of DRIPA, Tahltan Nation expects that the Province will take steps to ensure that mining companies are not granted any further permits or interests within Tahltan Territory without Tahltan consent.
The Province must prioritize the protection of Tahltan cultural, spiritual, and wildlife sensitivities, respecting and upholding Tahltan title and rights to Tahltan lands through shared decision-making processes, and the requirement that Tahltan consent be the foundation of any decision within Tahltan lands. Tahltan Nation has implemented many measures to support Tahltan involvement in decision-making processes and land stewardship initiatives in line with the Tahltan worldview and has been clear that mining in Tahltan Territory will either happen the Tahltan way or not at all.
The Tahltan Central Government is the administrative governing body of the Tahltan Nation and is the representative government of the Tahltan Nation with respect to the inherent and collective title and rights shared by all Tahltan people. The Tahltan Nation's Territory spans 95,933 square km of Northwest British Columbia or the equivalent of 11 per cent of the province. For more information, visit: www.tahltan.org.
SOURCE Tahltan Central Government
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