Newmont aims to work with Tahltan First Nation for Tatogga project development
In March, Newmont acquired the early-stage Tatogga project in a $311 million of buyout of GT Gold, however, that project is facing opposition from the Tahltan First Nation, a First Nation group in Canada’s British Columbia that holds considerable influence in the region.
According to a report from Reuters, the Tahltan First Nation has let it be known that the project is unlikely to gain favor. The residents of nearby Iskut, about 1,600 km north of Vancouver, worry the project will limit their ability to hunt caribou and bring more industry to an area that already includes Newcrest Mining’s Red Chris copper and gold mine.
“Clearly, if the community does not want the resource development, we’re not going to be there,” Newmont spokesman Nick Cotts said, adding the U.S. miner is committed to working with the Tahltan to address concerns.
The Tahltan nation has unique powers due to a combination of land rights, legal clout, financial heft and the ability to conduct their own economic and environmental assessments on projects in their territory. The group has gained consent agreements from other mining companies, including Teck and Rio Tinto.
Tahltan territory covers about 11 percent of the Pacific province and sits on an estimated 50.6 million ounces of gold and 12.5 billion pounds of copper, according to data mapping provider DigiGeoData.
Like some other British Columbian groups, the Tahltan Nation never ceded territory to European settlers, in contrast to groups elsewhere who ended up relinquishing title to their lands through treaties.
Aboriginal claims to traditional territories in British Columbia were bolstered by a landmark 2014 Supreme Court ruling.
The Tahltan nation has not shied away from using its power in the past.
In 2012, the nation opposed a coalbed methane project proposed by oil major Royal Dutch Shell, prompting the company to relinquish land tenures.
Three years later, Fortune Minerals sold coal leases in the territory, after the group threatened the miner with expulsion.
Such clout is in sharp contrast to the experience of indigenous groups elsewhere.
To be sure, the nation, who historically mined obsidian for weaponry and tools, support some mining provided it is on their terms.
Exploration spending last year in the territory topped C$200 million ($162.40 million) with production from three active mines valued at more than C$1.2 billion, according to the nation. Many Tahltan work in the industry and the nation has revenue-sharing agreements with the government for projects.
That economic heft makes it difficult for other indigenous groups to emulate Tahltan’s assertive approach to development, lawyers and First Nation leaders said.
“We don’t have to make huge cultural sacrifices to have a thriving economic environment in our territory,” Day said.