Rights holders compensated and mine plan frozen, with possibility of future joint venture with First Nation
VICTORIA — When Mines Minister Bill Bennett met with reporters at the legislature late Monday afternoon, he announced an innovative solution to a dispute over some coal mining licences that also heralded the future for resource development in B.C.
The specifics involved some 61 privately held mineral licences, together forming the basis for an anthracite coal mine in the Klappan region in the northwest of the province.
Together they also formed the basis for a decade-long standoff between the two private company holders of the licences and the Tahltan First Nation, in whose traditional territory the mining property was located.
The Tahltan opposed the project, a determination manifested with blockades going back 10 years. Thus stalled, the rights-holders — Fortune Minerals and POSCO Canada — had no practical option to develop their property, acquired in good faith in 2002.
Bad feelings over those properties threatened to spill over into other developments in the region, one of the richest in terms of mineral potential in the province.
Enter the deal that will see the province take back the licences for $18 million and hold them for a decade while exploring development options with the Tahltan throughout their traditional territory.
At the end of 10 years, the companies will have the option to buy back the licences for today’s price. Another option might see the Tahltan themselves proceed with development in partnership with the rights-holders.
“Developing a shared vision for responsible management of the Klappan is critically important to the Tahltan Nation, the province and to industry,” said Bennett. “This acquisition provides certainty and solves a timing problem that was preventing progress on these discussions.”
Students of B.C. political scandals should take note that the Liberals would appear to have found a stealth use for the mostly gone-and-buried B.C. Rail.
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