Clayoquot Sound gold mine proposal moving forward without First Nations approval

Clayoquot Sound, near Tofino (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Clayoquot Sound, near Tofino (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

TofinoTla-o-qui-aht First Nation is angered to learn that plans to begin gold mining work in the Tranquil Valley in Clayoquot Sound took a significant step forward last week.

A letter was sent to the BC Minister of Energy and Mines from a Senior Mines Inspector recommending approval for a permit to conduct exploratory mining at the long-abandoned Fandora mine site.

The Tla-o-qui-aht oppose mining in their territory and are not satisfied with the level of consultation by the company, Vancouver-based Selkirk Metals (owned by Imperial Metals Corporation) and the BC government. The Nation was awaiting word on a meeting with the Minister, which they expected to happen in September.

The Tla-o-qui-aht have declared Tranquil Valley a Tribal Park, have been working to attract investors in a conservation model, and aspire to build a salmon hatchery and other sustainable projects. The mine does not fit the Tla-o-qui-aht vision of ecosystem management and resource stewardship.

“We’re not anti-development; we’re pro-sustainable development,” said Saya Masso, Tla-o-qui-aht Natural Resource Manager and councillor. “As a First Nation working hard for a resilient homeland and sustainable economies, it’s upsetting to be disregarded by the consultation process that the government is using to approve projects like this.”

Mining is controversial in Clayoquot Sound, a region designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and world-renowned for wildlife and pristine ecosystems. Tla-o-qui-aht opposition to mining is strongly supported by the Wilderness Committee, Greenpeace, Friends of Clayoquot Sound, Clayoquot Action, and Sierra Club BC.

“A gold mine would jeopardize watershed and salmon recovery, and risk all the progress that has been made in Clayoquot,” said Torrance Coste, Vancouver Island Campaigner with the Wilderness Committee. “This is a region that could be an example of how to look after the environment, but a mine here would shatter that potential.”

The District of Tofino has called for the modernization of mineral tenure laws in BC to give First Nations and municipalities a larger say in the process.

“Local governments and First Nations deserve greater latitude to shape their economic development paths and protect the full range of their residents’ interests,” said Tofino District Mayor Josie Osborne.

The Tla-o-qui-aht are demanding that their original request for a meeting with the Minister finally be honoured.

“We hope that a meeting with the Minister will put this back on track for the people of Vancouver Island, and those who currently benefit from the healthy territories of the Tla-o-qui-aht Nation,” Masso said.