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First Nation Sues Government to Protect ‘Cultural Refuge’ Area from Proposed Coal Mine

NANAIMO, April 9, 2014 – The West Moberly First Nations are in court this week to challenge a proposed coal project in an area of critical spiritual and cultural importance.

West Moberly is based 34 km north of Chetwynd in northeast BC. They entered Treaty No. 8 in 1914, and they have constitutionally protected treaty rights to hunt, fish, and trap in the area.

Last summer, the Ministry of Energy and Mines issued mining permits to Canadian Kailuan Dehua Mines Co., Ltd., a Chinese-backed mining company for their ‘Gething Project”. The permits authorize the removal of 100,000 tonnes of material, transportation of 15,000 tonnes of coal, and construction for major components of a 30 year coal mine.

The Gething Project is about 30 km from the band’s Reserve, and about 50 meters from a “culture camp”, where members go to hunt, fish, and teach ancient traditions to children and youth.

West Moberly Chief Roland Willson, says that the government didn’t honour its constitutional duty to consult. “The Crown doesn’t seem to understand how important this location is to us, and they didn’t give us the chance to tell them,” Willson said. “The government allowed the company to prepare the studies it needed, but wouldn’t wait for the detailed report we produced on the impacts to our culture.”

West Moberly is represented by Victoria-based firm Devlin Gailus. The hearing, in the Supreme Court of BC in Nanaimo, is expected to last until Friday.



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