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VANCOUVER: Chad Day was just five weeks into his new job as President of Tahltan Central Council when he learned of the tailings pond breach at the Mount Polley mine – and got a crash course in crisis management.
The mine, near Williams Lake, is more than 1,000 kilometres by road southeast of Tahltan territory. But the accident raised alarms in Mr. Day’s communities because the company that runs Mt. Polley, Imperial Metals, is building an even bigger tailings pond at the Red Chris mine near the Tahltan village of Iskut.
In promoting the Red Chris project, Imperial assured the Tahltan of the project’s safety by referring to the great track record the company had at Mt. Polley. Then suddenly, last August, 24 million cubic metres of tainted water and sediment were spilled into Quesnel Lake, raising the spectre of a similar accident at Red Chris, on the headwaters of the Iskut and Stikine Rivers.
Tahltan members reacted by blockading the Red Chris mine site, and a cry went up demanding Mr. Day take action.
“It was madness,” said Mr. Day, 28, of how the protest exploded.
The Tahltan, he said, were “outraged,” and he was supposed to fix everything, fast.
Surprisingly, he did, by negotiating a deal that gave the Tahltan Central Council (TCC) environmental oversight of the copper and gold mine.
In April, just eight months after they manned the barricades to stop Red Chris, the Tahltan voted overwhelmingly in favour of a co-management agreement between the Tahltan and Imperial.
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