The Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) is crediting an international coalition of U.S. and Canadian First Nations, tribes and stakeholders for a big environmental win.
An agreement signed Jan. 19, 2022 sees Imperial Metals returning all mining and related rights in the Silverdaisy area back to the province.
“Nearly three years ago, UBCIC joined concerned First Nations, tribes, organizations, stakeholders, and conservationists across B.C. and Canada who were raising their voices in opposition to Imperial Metals’ proposed permit to begin mining in the ‘donut hole’ of the unprotected Canadian headwaters of the Skagit River,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip. “We are overjoyed that our efforts have paid off and that the B.C. government recognizes that the Skagit watershed must remain a pristine region in which wildlife, flora, and Indigenous lifeways can thrive.”
Phillip called it “inconceivable” that the company tied to the 2014 Mount Polly tailings breach could pursue a permit for another “out of compliance” mining operation, and he said the UBCIC and others are “breathing a sigh of relief.”
“The signed MOA ends the endangerment of vulnerable wildlife populations in the Upper Skagit region and sends a clear message that corporate interests will not be prioritized over the invaluable, diverse ecosystems within the Skagit River watershed.”
UBCIC vice president Chief Don Tom said it was important that Imperial Metals “honour the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and recognize that its proposed mining reflects an egregious lack of concern for the welfare of the environment and the concerns of First Nations.”
“Moving forward, we hope that Imperial Metals and other mining companies will uphold the UN Declaration, including Article 29 which affirms that Indigenous peoples have the right to protect and conserve the environment and the productive capacity of their lands, territories, and resources,” Tom said. “First Nations like the Stó:lō, Syilx and Nlaka’pamux have derived their livelihoods and cultural and spiritual traditions from the lands and waters of the Skagit watershed since time immemorial, and it is imperative they can continue stewarding over clean water, salmon, and wildlife for future generations to come.”