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Tahltan Nation, B.C. sign historic consent-based decision-making agreement

November 1, 2023 at 6:10 pm  BC, News, Politics, Provincial

Tahltan Central Government (TCG) and the Province of British Columbia have made history by entering into a consent-based decision-making agreement under Section 7 of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (Declaration Act) in relation to the future operation of the Red Chris gold and copper mine located in Tahltan Territory, an agreement viewed as a necessary step forward in the evolving progression of a co-governance relationship between the two governments.

The agreement was signed in a ceremony on Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2023, by Tahltan Central Government President Chad Norman Day; George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy; and Murray Rankin, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, and witnessed by Iskut Band Chief Marie Quock; Tahltan Band Chief Carmen McPhee; Josie Osborne, Minister of Energy, Mines and Low-Carbon Innovation; and Nathan Cullen, MLA for Stikine.

“Today, the Tahltan Nation and the Province of British Columbia have made history by forging a consent-based decision-making agreement, marking a significant milestone on our path towards reconciliation,” Day said. “This agreement acknowledges and respects Tahltan title, rights and jurisdiction. It is a long-overdue step forward in our evolving co-governance relationship. It sets a precedent and signifies the importance of real consent in project amendments. We are grateful for the unwavering dedication and tireless efforts of the team who negotiated this agreement and fought for Tahltan rights, led by TCG lands director Connor Pritty. Their commitment to our cause has been invaluable in securing this agreement. Since time immemorial, the Tahltan Nation has been entrusted with the preservation and protection of Tahltan Territory. As the rights holders under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, we have consistently emphasized that industry activity can only proceed with our free, prior and informed consent. With this agreement, we ensure that amendments involving substantial changes to Red Chris can only proceed with our consent, highlighting our commitment to environmental stewardship and a sustainable future. Reconciliation and economic development can indeed coexist, guided by strong environmental, social and governance standards, as envisioned by the Tahltan people. In partnership with the Province and with a shared vision for a sustainable future, we demonstrate that, through consent-based decision-making, we can protect our environment for generations to come, while creating a clear regulatory path forward for all stakeholders.”

The agreement outlines consent-based decision-making for the review of any substantial changes proposed by the mine operator to the Red Chris mine 2005 environmental assessment certificate.

“Tahltan Nation and the Province have built a strong partnership together, one that supports economic certainty for projects within Tahltan lands and provides regulatory clarity, while protecting the environment for the generations who will be impacted for years in the future,” Heyman said. “We are proud and excited to collaborate on decision-making processes for natural-resource projects in Tahltan Territory in ways that are consistent with our revitalized environmental-assessment legislation. This agreement recognizes Tahltan title and rights and helps create a clear, predictable, sustainable path forward that will build the prosperity of Tahltan Nation and all British Columbians.”

The agreement respects and recognizes Tahltan title, rights and inherent jurisdictional decision-making authority for land-management decisions for the Red Chris mine. Tahltan Nation is entrusted with preserving and protecting Tahltan Territory since time immemorial, which is essential for the survival of the Tahltan way of life, and physical, spiritual and mental well-being.

Under the agreement, Tahltan and the Environmental Assessment Office will collaboratively carry out their own assessment processes to inform their separate decisions on whether any proposed substantial change to the existing environmental-assessment certificate should be approved, including those required to transition Red Chris from open-pit to underground block cave mining. These amendments cannot proceed without Tahltan consent.

“B.C. and Tahltan continue to make history,” Rankin said. “Our governments and industry are working to uphold Tahltan jurisdiction and advance reconciliation. Through consent agreements such as this one and the one last year for the Eskay Creek mine project, we are tangibly demonstrating that respect for Indigenous self-determination benefits all of us in British Columbia.”

The agreement builds upon a long history of the Tahltan Nation leading collaborative decision-making in relation to Red Chris, including through the 2017 Red Chris Mine Management agreement. The agreement also builds upon the consent-based agreement entered into by the TCG and the Province last year for the Eskay Creek Revitalization Project, which was the first consent-based decision-making agreement under the Declaration Act. The Tahltan Nation has consistently emphasized that industry activity can only proceed with Tahltan’s free, prior and informed consent on any proposed project aligned with Province’s commitment to reconciliation with the Tahltan Nation and the recognition of Tahltan title and rights.

The consent decision-making process set out in the agreement demonstrates that reconciliation, Tahltan land management decision-making and economic development go hand in hand and set the stage for investors who are committed to strong environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards that recognize and respect Tahltan jurisdiction in land-management decisions. The agreement provides clarity and transparency regarding how Tahltan and B.C.’s respective assessment and decision-making processes will be carried out collaboratively, and reflects the ability to co-create regulatory process clarity for major project interests.

Quotes:

Marie Quock, Iskut Band Chief –

“As Chief of the Iskut Band and a strong advocate for environmental standards and the well-being of the Iskut community, today’s agreement holds special significance for our community. Red Chris is built in our backyard, and I have witnessed first-hand the impact it has on our land and our people. This consent-based decision-making agreement is a crucial step toward creating a world-class mining jurisdiction that prioritizes the environment and the wellness of our Tahltan people above all else. It reflects our shared commitment to responsible resource development. I want to express my gratitude to all those who have worked tirelessly to make this agreement a reality, including TCG lands director Connor Pritty, who led the charge in advocating for our rights and environmental stewardship. This is a testament to what we can achieve when we come together to protect our homeland and build a brighter future for our people.”

Carmen McPhee, Tahltan Band Chief –

“As Chief of the Tahltan Band, I am humbled by the unity we have achieved through this historic agreement. It’s a testament to the strength and resilience of our people and the willingness of the Province to listen and understand our concerns. This landmark consent-based decision-making agreement underscores our shared commitment to putting Tahltan rights, free prior and informed consent, and the well-being of our community at the forefront. It’s a signal that we can work together with respect and understanding, to forge a path that truly respects our rights and interests. I want to express my gratitude to all those who have contributed to this milestone, including the team who tirelessly negotiated on our behalf. This agreement demonstrates the power of partnership and the possibility of positive change when we come together as a Nation to shape a better future for all.”

Josie Osborne, Minister of Energy, Mines and Low-Carbon Innovation –

“This agreement is a reflection of the strength of our relationship with Tahltan Nation, and our shared commitment to working together to continue to support sound, sustainable land-based decisions in Tahltan Territory that upholds Tahltan jurisdiction. Consent agreements on natural resource projects demonstrate how the Province and First Nations can co-create regulatory certainty for major projects, establishing British Columbia as a preferred destination for the growing number of investors that care about ESG standards.”

Nathan Cullen, MLA for Stikine –

“Our government and the Tahltan Central Government are creating an even stronger relationship based on co-operation and joint land-use decisions on Tahltan Territory. I’m profoundly grateful for that relationship and the groundbreaking leadership that President Day, Chiefs Quock and McPhee, and their entire councils have shown B.C. and the world.”

Ben Wither,  vice-president, health, safety, environment and permitting, Newcrest Mining Ltd., Western Canada –

“The signing of the Declaration Act Consent Decision-Making Agreement for Red Chris Porphyry Copper-Gold Mine project is a landmark moment, demonstrating true partnership in decision-making. We are proud to be part of a collaboration that sees industry and the B.C. provincial government acknowledging the rights and title of the Tahltan Nation. Inclusive decision-making like this is how we will achieve prosperous and sustainable projects for generations.”

Phil Germuth, chair, Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine –

“The Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine is very pleased to support this innovative decision-making agreement between the Tahltan Nation and the Province of B.C. on the environmental-assessment approvals for the Red Chris Porphyry Copper-Gold Mine. By working together and through clear and transparent shared decision making we can ensure resource development in our region is done to the highest environmental standards. This agreement can serve as a model for collaboration on other resource projects reviewed through the environmental assessment process, and we commend the Tahltan Central Government and the Province for their work on this.”

Michael Goehring, president and CEO, Mining Association of British Columbia (MABC) –

“This consent agreement between the Tahltan Central Government and the Province is an important milestone that will advance reconciliation and support the environmental-assessment process for proposed changes to the Red Chris mine. MABC congratulates the Tahltan Nation on reaching this agreement. Full First Nations participation in environmental assessment and permitting processes are essential for the timely and responsible development of our province’s critical mineral resources.”

Keerit Jutla, president and CEO, Association for Mineral Exploration –

“We are happy to see this moment in reconciliation. We hope this agreement, and other government-to-government agreements, will bring much-needed clarity, efficiency and transparency to the mineral exploration and mining industry, while respecting and honouring reconciliation and Tahltan rights.”

Quick Facts:

  • The Tahltan Central Government and the Province announced the start of negotiations for the consent agreement on the Red Chris mine assessment process on June 15, 2021, along with a list of stakeholders who were engaged throughout negotiations.
  • The agreement on the review process for substantial changes to Red Chris has been reached under Section 7 of the Declaration Act, which provides a mechanism in law to reflect the co-operation of two governments and how First Nations jurisdictions and decisions can effectively interact with provincial decision-making.
  • Section 7 of the Environmental Assessment Act (EAA) provides the enabling legislation and an order under the Environment and Land Use Act gives the legal mechanism for a consent agreement related to an amendment process under the EAA.
  • The Tahltan Central Government is the administrative governing body of the Tahltan Nation and is the representative government of the Tahltan Nation with respect to the inherent and collective title and rights shared by all Tahltan people.
  • The Tahltan Nation’s Territory spans 95,933 square kilometres of northwest British Columbia or the equivalent of 11 per cent of the province.

Learn More:

To learn about the Tahltan Central Government, visit: https://tahltan.org/

To learn about the Tahltan Stewardship Initiative, visit: https://tsi.tahltan.org

To learn about the Province’s work with the Tahltan Central Government, including a copy of the agreement with area maps, visit:  www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/environment/natural-resource-stewardship/consulting-with-first-nations/first-nations-negotiations/first-nations-a-z-listing/tahltan-central-government  

To see the Environmental Assessment Office project information page for Red Chris Porphyry Copper-Gold Mine Project, visit: https://projects.eao.gov.bc.ca/p/588510c4aaecd9001b8155e3/project-details

To learn about Newcrest Mining Ltd.’s Red Chris Porphyry Copper-Gold Mine, visit: https://www.newcrest.com/our-assets/red-chris 

To read the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, visit: https://declaration.gov.bc.ca/

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