A week after Chad Day put out a statement demanding a moratorium on jade and placer mining, the Tahltan Central Government (TCG) president is out on the land serving eviction notices to operators.
A Facebook post this afternoon (July 5) said Day, along with Scott Hawkins, a Tahltan Band councillor, and Kim Marion, a TCG family representative, visited 10 different jade and placer sites yesterday.
“President Day read out loud to each company that their operations within our territory do not have the consent of our people and that they are infringing on our Aboriginal rights and title,” the post stated. “He informed these companies that their ongoing activities are extremely disrespectful and illegal under Tahltan Law and demanded that they cease all activities in Tahltan territory.”
Day’s original message last week stated that “these activities are causing environmental degradation and are being undertaken in a manner that does not respect Tahltan title and rights,” and that TCG has “legal counsel fully engaged with the Province and will force this issue into the courts if necessary.”
Placer mining is the practice of mining for minerals (primarily gold) in and near streams and riverbeds. Anybody may hand pan for gold without permission in any watercourse in B.C. except in or on a placer claim or lease; park, protected area, reserve or heritage site; private property; or First Nations land.
More sophisticated extraction operations require a placer claim or lease. The Province has designated huge areas of the province as placer areas and anyone with a Free Miner Certificate can register claims through the Mineral Titles Online system.
Day said he has written to Michelle Mungall, the minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, “demanding action from the Province of British Columbia to take immediate steps to shut down the jade and placer mining activities in our territory.
“We cannot sit back and let jade extraction and placer mining operations continue under the inadequate provincial regulatory regime.”
Day’s claim of inadequate regulation and enforcement is backed up by a 2017 report titled “B.C. Placer Mining: High Environmental Impacts vs. Low Economic Return” by the Fair Mining Collaborative (FMC), a charitable foundation that works with communities, First Nations and lawmakers “to build knowledge of mining impacts and benefits so they can fully participate in fair land-use decision-making processes that affect their future,” according to their mission statement.
“Yet despite the high risk of environmental impacts, the B.C. government is not adequately scrutinizing placer mining,” the report states. “A B.C. Ministry of the Environment audit in 2010 found high numbers of miners breaking rules. Additionally, we have found that, on average, only one in four placer mines with an active permit are inspected each year and fines for illegal activities are likely too low to deter bad practices.”
The report does not specifically address jade mining, but Glenn Grande, FCM executive director told The Interior News in an email it is a real grey area.
“Jade, is a regulatory anomaly, with no clear regulations, but allowed across the same permitting scheme as placer mining,” Grande said.
“Often, placer miners (or even hard rock miners) ‘stumble’ upon a jade rock, then use their available tools and permissions to extract and process these rocks sometimes creating new environmental problems that were never envisioned by the permit. It’s a difficult area of mining to understand, regulation-wise, for everyone we’ve talked to.
FMC makes a number of recommendations including a moratorium on future placer claim staking and work permits until regulations can be reformed.
The ministry provided a statement via email.
“We are aware of the position Tahltan Nation have taken regarding placer mining in their traditional territory,” it said. “Over the past year, we have been working with representatives of the Tahltan Nation to address their concerns.
“The Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources is taking steps to improve the regulation of placer mining after seeking feedback through a series of forums with First Nations. Some key initiatives to date include: working with the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy on changes to the Placer Mine Waste Control Regulation, implementation of the Regional Bond calculator to ensure regional (including placer) mines have sufficient bonds, and development of Best Management Practices to set out clear expectations for operators.”
It is unclear what, if any, legal authority the Tahltan have to stop the activity, but the ministry confirmed that in order to operate, miners must have a legal claim and permit, which are issued by the Province.
Another key finding of the FCM report was that the Province gets very little in economic return from placer mining to offset the environmental damage.
“In 2015, the B.C. government collected an estimated $64,965 in royalties, and the placer miners who filed mineral tax returns reported gold sales of 12,982, 931,” it states. “There were 542 placer mines with a permit to operate in 2016, and almost 3,000 placer claims reporting work.”
The Tahltan get nothing from it.