The Tsilhqot’in First Nation has released a new policy outlining guidelines for mining and oil and gas activities in their traditional territory. The policy aims to provide clarity on permissible exploration and mining practices while ensuring the protection of Tsilhqot’in cultural and ecological values.
Tsilhqot’in rights and title map shows Prosperity mine area (Fish Lake).
Under the new policy, the Tsilhqot’in Nation will consider resource development initiatives that align with their cultural and ecological priorities, provided that Tsilhqot’in values are respected, and long-term social and economic benefits for Tsilhqot’in communities are ensured. The policy also encourages partnership and ownership opportunities with mining and exploration companies, with a focus on increasing capacity training for Tsilhqot’in people to maximize job opportunities, training, and contracts.
However, the policy does set specific conditions for exploration and mining activities, including the restoration of ancestral lands to a state acceptable to the Tsilhqot’in and the requirement of exploration agreements, impact benefit agreements, and resource revenue sharing with the Tsilhqot’in Nation.
Chief Joe Alphonse, tribal chairman of the Tŝilhqot’in National Government, highlighted the significance of the policy: “Our work over recent years to develop a policy is reinforced by the recent victory by Gitxaała Nation and Ehattesaht First Nation to overturn B.C.’s mineral staking system that was based on a complete denial of Indigenous rights B.C.”
He further emphasized that the Tsilhqot’in Nation will not allow exploration and extraction in their territory without their participation and agreement, stating, “Exploration and extraction in our territory will not happen without our participation and agreement.”
While the Tsilhqot’in Nation’s mining policy is unique to their community, it aligns with the expectations and aspirations expressed by other Indigenous nations in British Columbia. Michael Goehring, CEO of the Mining Association of BC, commented, “It appears to be largely consistent with the expectations and aspirations expressed by other Indigenous nations in BC who want to protect the land and resources while also advancing responsible mineral development that maximizes benefits to Tsilhqot’in communities through their active engagement and participation in consent-based decision-making processes.”