Tahltan Nation continues opposition to jade mining on its territory

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The Tahltan Central Government (TCG) is repeating its calls for a halt to jade mining on its territory.

President Chad Norman Day says jade mining operations create a lot of environmental damage, and they often leave behind a large mess that can include abandoned equipment, damaged landscapes and split-open jade boulders.

He also described both the environmental mitigation measures put in place by the province -- and the enforcement of those measures -- as being very weak.

The Tahltan have benefits-sharing agreements with many large scare mines on their territory, but Day says they don't see any benefits or jobs from jade mines, which happen on a smaller scale.

"If a jade miner comes in, spends whatever they spend, digs up two or three stones that could be worth a million dollars more or each, and then sells them, what do the Tahltan receive from that? Nothing. And then what are we left with? Most of the time, we're left with a big mess on the site where they've had all of these pieces of equipment, ripping up the land and going through the water."

Day also criticized the TV show Jade Fever. The show, which airs on the Discovery Channel, follows the mining activities of the Bunce family, who run the Cassiar Mountain Jade Store in Jade City along Highway 37.

In 2019, Day delivered an eviction notice to the Bunce family and asked them to cease operations.

He says he would be open to working with jade mining operations in the future, but many changes need to happen first and he wants their work to seize for the moment.

"Maybe there's a path here for these industries to continue, but we're going to have to sit down and hear from the operators, hear from the province, and hear from the Tahltan. And if it's going to continue, the whole industry needs to be overhauled so that proper benefits come back to the nation, and much better environmental and archaeological standards and accountability and enforcement are in place."

In an emailed statement, Cassiar Mountain Jade Store owner and Jade Fever star Claudia Bunce said her family has been in the community and the jade mining industry for over 50 years, and in this time have worked with the Tahltan by hiring workers and engaging in joint ventures and partnerships with them.

"We will continue to work with the Tahltan Nation," she said. "We honour the relationships that we’ve created with the Tahltan and other nations in the community over the past fifty years."
B.C. Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation minister Bruce Ralston said in a statment that their government support mining projects that develop strong relationships with Indigenous Nations and respeect B.C.'s environment.

“We are working actively with the Tahltan Central Government to address their concerns around jade mining," he said. 

"Last May, after extensive engagement, government passed an order under the Environment and Land Use Act to prohibit new placer jade permit decisions in Tahltan territory for 24 months as we continue to work to establish a long-term economic, reconciliation, wildlife and land-use partnership."

He also said the TCG is consulted on all Mines act permit applications including those for hard rock and placer jade in the Turnagain area east of Dease Lake. 

“Hard rock jade mining involves drilling on-site, similar to other types of mineral exploration. Placer jade mining involves stripping large areas of land to locate jade boulders, causing a greater environmental impact.”