Close to two-dozen members of Simpcw Frist Nation and supporters held a three-hour information picket at the Highway 5 turnoff to Vavenby on Thursday, Nov. 8.
Purpose of the demonstration was to draw public attention to Simpcw concerns about the proposed Harper Creek Mine.
“Once the environmental assessment is submitted there will be only 210 days for the province to approve it,” said Simpcw Chief Rita Matthew. “That isn’t enough time, we feel, to review the plan.”
Yellowhead Mining is predicting a lifespan for its open pit mine of 28 years, she pointed out.
“That’s only one generation, but the impact will be felt for an unknown length of time, certainly three to five generations. Once it is done, it is gone forever,” said the chief.
First Nations have rights and responsibilities regarding developments within their traditional territories, she said.
Matthew said these rights were “given back” in the Canadian Constitution and in the Delgamuukw case.
The Delgamuukw case in particular means First Nations should expect to receive benefits from developments within their territory.
There can be no question the site of the proposed Harper Creek mine is within their territory, the chief said.
The area is still used by band members for hunting and berry-picking. They have documented these uses extensively.
An archeological survey has found two rock cairns within the proposed mine site. Although their purpose has not yet been determined, they potentially could be sacred burial sites.
Although several public forums have been held in the Valley to talk about the mine, the Simpcw have not been fully involved until now. The chief noted that the band has protocol agreements with the municipal governments within its traditional territory, from Valemount to Barriere. She said they looked forward to working with others in the Valley to maximize the long-term benefits of the mine.
“We’re not opposed to the mine. We know this is an economically depressed area. We just want to explain our side of the picture,” the chief said.
According to Yellowhead Mining’s website, the company has signed general services agreements with Simpcw First Nation and the Adams Lake Indian Band. The company also is in the process of negotiating a benefit sharing agreement with Simpcw First Nation, and is looking at ways to work with local First Nations on employment and training opportunities associated with the construction and operation of the Harper Creek project.
The proposed Harper Creek mine would be a copper-gold-silver open pit located about 10 km southwest of Vavenby.