New jade-mining regulation a win for reconcilliation: Tahltan Nation

Map of B.C. showing Tahltan traditional territory in red. The province issued an immediate Environment and Land Use Act order, prohibiting jade mining on new tenures in Tahltan Territory. (File photo)

The Tahltan Nation is celebrating the recent announcement by the province to block any new jade mining activities on their territory.

On May 10, the province issued an immediate Environment and Land Use Act order, prohibiting jade mining on new tenures in Tahltan Territory. In a statement May 24 the nation said the move is a significant step towards reconciliation and environmental protection.

“This is a clear message to those extracting jade in Tahltan Territory that their old ways of doing business are no longer acceptable and that the right side of history is free, prior, and informed consent,” said Heather Hawkins, acting President of the Tahltan Central Government.

The new order, which applies specifically to northwestern B.C., will allow current tenure holders to continue jade mining for five years under enhanced reclamation requirements. The order does not impact other mining operations in the region, nor does it affect jade-mining activities in other parts of B.C.

Since 2020, the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation has conducted extensive analysis and studies. The province noted that jade mining in northwestern B.C. has caused significant harm to sensitive alpine environments. These activities, often only accessible by helicopter, have also created substantial regulatory challenges for permitting, compliance, and enforcement. The Environment and Land Use Act order aims to address these environmental impacts while allowing existing tenure holders time to wind down operations responsibly.

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The Tahltan Nation added they have a long history of working with responsible entities in the exploration and mining industry who following their laws, principles, and practices, including environmental protection and cultural respect. However, they have criticised the “quasi-unregulated” nature of jade extraction, which has often resulted in millions of dollars in resources being extracted with minimal benefits to the Tahltan Nation and negative consequences for the province.

“What is more, in many instances the environmental liability left behind by these operators will be a future financial burden for all BC taxpayers,” the Tahltan Nation stated in their release. “Determining the future of jade extraction requires thoughtful consideration of its historical performance, challenges, benefits, risks, and evaluating the feasibility of adopting a fresh approach rooted in reconciliation.”

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