Tagged: Ahousaht First Nations

Bingham Canyon Open Pit Copper Mine

A tale of two mines

An open-pit copper mine in the heart of Clayoquot Sound? A historic gold mine re-opened using modern technology to scour out minerals the old-timers couldn’t get at? Is this the best we can hope for, almost 25 years after the Clayoquot Summer peaceful protests put the region on the map of global ecological hotspots?

Imperial Metals sparked controversy this month when interviewed by CBC for a story on mining. When asked about Imperial’s Clayoquot Sound claims, Vice President Steve Robertson said “those mining projects are very valuable to the company, we feel they’re high priority projects”. Robertson was formerly the manager of Imperial’s Mount Polley Mine, until their tailings dam failed catastrophically in 2014, spilling 25 million cubic metres of toxic tailings and slurry into pristine Quesnel Lake—one of the biggest mining disasters in the world.

Imperial Metals is a Vancouver-based mining company. They acquired mineral tenures in Clayoquot Sound in 2009 and are considering opening two mines in the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

Imperial: Clayoquot projects ‘high priority’
First, the Catface Mountain copper mine. Catface is located at the geographic centre of Clayoquot Sound in Ahousaht First Nations territory. Ahousaht are a sovereign Nuu-chah-nulth nation whose territory encompasses much of Clayoquot Sound. The Ahousaht name for Catface Mountain is čitaapii (Chitaapi).

Just this winter Ahousaht announced their land use vision for their traditional territories. It clearly did not include an open pit copper mine right across the channel from their village on Flores Island. A mine operating only 3 kilometres away with audible blasting and bright lights 24/7 has the potential to drastically alter life in the village, with serious and long-term social, health and environmental impacts. Imperial’s proclamation flies in the face of the expressed veto of the Ahousaht people.

Imperial’s second proposal is to re-open the abandoned Fandora gold mine in Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations territory—in Tla-o-qui-aht’s Tranquil Tribal Park. In 2013, Vancouver-based Selkirk Metals (owned by Imperial Metals Corporation) was granted an exploration permit despite a veto from Tla-o-qui-aht. They are not satisfied with the level of consultation by the company or the BC government.

Urgent need to modernize mining legislation
Unfortunately, a First Nations veto on a mining project does not mean the BC government and mining companies will give up. Just look at the case of Tsilhqot’in Nation’s attempts to protect Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) in their territories.

The federal government has twice rejected Taseko’s Prosperity Mine proposal, yet the company is applying for exploration permits to keep the project alive, suing the federal government and seeking unspecified compensation for their decisions, and appealing its court loss regarding defamation charges made against the Wilderness Committee.

And remember, defeating a mine proposal costs communities a million dollars each time.

British Columbia’s Mineral Tenure Act is still based on a ‘free entry’ system which has been abandoned in many other jurisdictions, including Alberta. For over 150 years mining activity has been given priority over virtually all other land uses and generated conflict over mining activity throughout BC. In 2013, the District of Tofino put forward a resolution at the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) annual conference calling on the provincial government to work with First Nations, local governments, industry and citizens to modernize BC’s mining laws. The resolution was passed with overwhelming support.

Mining ban needed for Clayoquot Sound
The quest for continued growth on a finite planet is forcing the global commodity market to look for scarce resources in places that were considered off-limits 20-30 years ago. Most of the good ore bodies on the planet have been mined out—companies are now looking to marginal deposits like Catface and Fandora. If not Imperial, if not now; some day, some company will want to try to open these mines in Clayoquot Sound.

Currently, only the BC government has the power to hand out mining permits. Therefore only the BC government has the power to ban mining legally—for now. Clayoquot Action is calling on the province to support the land-use visions of the local First Nations whose rights and title to these lands have never been extinguished. From Ahousaht and Tla-o-qui-aht to the District of Tofino and the Chamber of Commerce—there is a broad consensus that Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve is not the right place for mining activities.

Dan Lewis is Executive Director of Clayoquot Action.

You can watch CBC’s full coverage here. The Clayoquot mining story starts at 12:32.

Please sign SumOfUs’ petition to Imperial Metals. Help us reach 50,000 signatures!


Ahousaht First Nations vision

Ahousahts’ vision

Hereditary chiefs typically designate a speaker to speak for them in public. This is because when they say something, it can’t be taken back. So I was curious when I heard Chief Maquinna from Ahousaht was going to speak at a Raincoast Education Society event in Tofino about old growth forests—how was this going to work?

Lewis George is the hereditary chief of Ahousaht, and bears the traditional title m̓ukʷina (Maquinna), which he received from his late father Earl Maquinna George. The first thing he did last week was to explain why he was speaking. Hereditary chiefs can only speak for themselves when they have good news. And Ahousaht has good news!

The Ahousaht confederacy recently announced their marine- and land-use vision for their traditional territories (ḥaḥuułʔi). The community consensus is to protect their lands and waters, including the globally rare ancient rainforests—the massive cedars and spruces—of which they are the custodians. Continue reading

Clayoquot Science Panel

(Originally published in November/December 2016 issue of Watershed Sentinel)

As I struggled to hoist myself up onto the monumental stump of an ancient red cedar, I wondered how it had come to this. Why, in 2010, were trees like this being cut down in Clayoquot Sound? A place where valley after valley of ancient forests never ravaged by chainsaws undulates downwards from the snowy peaks, to surf rolling in on mile-long sandy beaches. Continue reading

Big summer for wild salmon!

It was a big summer for wild salmon. Captain Paul Watson and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society donated their vessel, the R/V Martin Sheen, to BC biologist Alexandra Morton. Operation Virus Hunter was launched! The goal was to track farm salmon viruses and audit salmon farms along the Fraser wild salmon migration route.

Things ramped up in August when the Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw chiefs (pictured above at a Vancouver rally) issued an eviction notice to all salmon farms in their territory, including Cermaq, the same Norwegian company operating in Clayoquot Sound. The Nation has been opposing salmon farms in their territory for decades. This summer Band Councillor Melissa Willie instructed by Chief Willie Moon to climb aboard a salmon farm to request a sample of the farm fish for testing. Their request was denied. Continue reading

Mass die-off at Clayoquot farms

The call came in at the end of a busy day last week: ‘Cermaq is experiencing a mass die-off at two of their farms in Clayoquot Sound’. By early morning the next day we had assembled a volunteer boat driver and photographer, sourced a donated water taxi, and raised the funds to fuel the boat and hire a videographer complete with drone. We set off in anticipation.

The first farm we got to didn’t seem to have any unusual activity, other than the whole Herbert Inlet was a weird murky turquoise. An employee boated over to photograph us, and a polite exchange followed. ‘We’re not sure what this colour is’, he said. ‘We’ve been seeing it for six weeks—could be Chryso’ (shorthand for Chrysochromulina, a species of algae).

The second farm we reached was the Millar Channel farm, just kilometres north of the site evicted by Ahousaht First Nations, after it was occupied by the Yaakswiis Warriors last September. There was a hum of activity: workers tossing dead salmon into totes, which were lifted and dumped into semi-trailers designed to haul away animal remains. The tubes sucking the dead fish (morts) from the pens were getting plugged up with the sheer numbers, and divers were in the pens unplugging them. Continue reading

Mining harms wild salmon

The Wild Salmon Delegation came to Norway to campaign against Cermaq’s open-net pen feedlots in Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. But as the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations saying goes, hišukiš c̓aawaak—everything is connected.

Yesterday I found myself sitting inside an indigenous Sami lavvu (a teepee-like traditional dwelling) with Ahousaht First Nations citizen John Rampanen. Imagine our surprise to learn that the reindeer herder with us Continue reading

Unprecedented fish farm win!

A meteor shot thru the pre-dawn sky, burning longer than any I’ve ever witnessed. Was it a sign that something was about to happen?

We were up early to head north to Ahousaht territory to witness the removal of Cermaq’s new fish farm from a place called Yaakswiis, on the shore of Flores Island. The facility had been occupied by members of Ahousaht First Nations for 13 days, until the company finally agreed to remove the floats—at first light on Monday, September 21. Continue reading

First Nations occupy Clayoquot Sound salmon farm

Heading north from Tofino towards Hot Springs Cove, you pass by Flores Island, home to the Ahousaht First Nations. The island is breathtakingly beautiful—rounded mountains covered in ancient rainforests sweep down to white sand beaches with surf rolling in.

Cermaq, a Norwegian-based salmon farming company (recently purchased by Mitsubishi) was granted permits this summer to install a new salmon farm on the eastern shore of Flores Island, their 16th site in Clayoquot Sound.

The contentious new farm was assembled off-site, an unusual move indicating that Cermaq was expecting resistance. When Cermaq towed the assembled pens to the Yaakswiis site on Wednesday they were met by members of Ahousaht First Nations who do not want salmon farms in Clayoquot Sound. Continue reading

New salmon farm approved in Clayoquot Sound

On the Friday afternoon before the BC Day weekend, the government attempted to bury the news that a new salmon farm had been approved in Clayoquot Sound. Three other new farms were also approved for northern Vancouver Island.

The license was issued to Cermaq, a Norwegian-based company belonging to Mitsubishi. If installation is completed, the new feedlot would be located along the shores of Flores Island (pictured below), in Ahousaht First Nations territory. Flores Island is cloaked in intact ancient cedar rainforest, with many creeks supporting runs of wild salmon. Continue reading

Still logging Clayoquot Sound

I never expected to end up in maximum security prison when I moved to Tofino in 1988. I had just finished my fourth season of tree planting—I knew what would happen to Clayoquot Sound’s rainforest if something didn’t change, soon. People often ask what brought me to Tofino. “My Volkswagen van,” I quip, but really it was the big trees, which I had fallen in love with as a teenager back in 1979. Continue reading