UBCIC Celebrates Halting of Mining Threat in Skagit Headwaters

News Release
January 20, 2022

UBCIC Celebrates Halting of Mining Threat in Skagit Headwaters

(Xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil Waututh)/Vancouver, B.C. – Jan 20, 2022) The Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) commends the tremendous dedication and work of an international coalition of U.S. and Canadian First Nations, Tribes, and stakeholders who united to oppose Imperial Metals’ proposal to pursue a mining permit in the headwaters of the Skagit River. Thanks to the collective efforts of this coalition and the Skagit Environmental Endowment Commission (SEEC), the SEEC, Imperial Metals and the Government of British Columbia announced a signed Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) on January 19, 2022, that specifies the return of all mining and related rights in the Silverdaisy area of the Canadian Skagit Headwaters held by Imperial Metals back to the Province of British Columbia.  

UBCIC is a member of the international coalition organized by Washington Wild and has previously called upon Imperial Metals to honour the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UN Declaration), to cede its mining tenures to the SEEC, and to recognize that its proposed mining reflects an egregious lack of concern for the welfare of the environment and the concerns of First Nations. The region covered by these mineral tenures has been a notable geographic gap in provincial protection for habitat for grizzly bears and the endangered northern spotted owl. Yesterday’s announcement is a significant development in ensuring the continued survival of wildlife whose habitat has been degraded and destroyed by extractive resource industries.

“Nearly three years ago UBCIC joined concerned First Nations, Tribes, organizations, stakeholders, and conservationists across BC 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. We are overjoyed that our efforts have paid off and that the BC government recognizes that the Skagit Watershed must remain a pristine region in which wildlife, flora, and Indigenous lifeways can thrive” stated Grand Chief Stewart Phillip. “It was inconceivable to us that a company with an operating history mired by the 2014 Mount Polley tailings breach could pursue a permit that could open the gateway to another out of compliance mining operation. We breathe a collective sigh of relief as 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.”

“Recognizing that the headwaters of the Skagit river are on unceded Indigenous lands, we raise our hands to all First Nations and Tribes north and south of the border that have worked tirelessly to address and advance the transboundary issue that is the Skagit Watershed,” continued Chief Don Tom, Vice-President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs. “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. 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.”

“The historic settlement of the Imperial Metals’ mining threat paves the way for further conservation efforts, and we hope the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Strategy and BC Parks will move forward with an effective and comprehensive process to collaborate with affected First Nations on the future use and protection within the Skagit River ‘Donut Hole’,” concluded Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, Secretary-Treasurer of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs. “The extinguishment of Imperial Metals’ mining tenures will improve the chances for survival of the diverse but vulnerable ecosystems and wildlife species in the Skagit Watershed, including endangered populations of Chinook salmon, steelhead, and spotted owls. The halting of the mining threat in the Skagit headwaters is a milestone moment that was guided by a strong spirit of cooperation and unity between Nations, Tribes, and allies in the US and Canada, and paves the way for securing long-term protection in the area.”

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Media contacts:

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President, 250-490-5314
Chief Don Tom, Vice-President, 250-813-3315
Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, Secretary-Treasurer, c/o 778-866-0548

UBCIC is an NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.

For more information, please visit www.ubcic.bc.ca

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