Gibraltar Mine, the second largest open pit copper mine in Canada, is located 60km north of Williams Lake, BC in the BC’s interior and in the heart of the caretaker area of ʔEsdilagh First Nation (Alexandria). Effluent from the Gibraltar Mine tailings pond, without undergoing any prior sophisticated water treatment, is discharged into the Fraser River only 4km from the community of ʔEsdilagh, upstream of Tl’esqox and other neighbours and near traditional fishing sites within Tŝilhqot’in territory.

The Tŝilhqot’in Nation and its communities, including the ʔEsdilagh First Nation, have long expressed opposition to this unsustainable practice which threatens the health of the Fraser River and the fish, animals and people who rely upon it (upstream and downstream), and have called for water treatment prior to discharge, or finding alternatives to discharge to the sensitive Fraser River.

The Gibraltar Mine has been in operation since 1972, and was developed in the Tŝilhqot’in Territory without the prior agreement or consent of the ʔEsdilagh First Nation or the Tŝilhqot’in Nation. The mine never underwent an environmental assessment, and has had major impacts on Tŝilhqot’in Aboriginal Title, Rights and interests, including impacts and alienation of hunting, gathering and fishing grounds, Indigenous laws, and contamination of water resources, with almost no compensation or meaningful participation.

Location of Gibraltar Mine

In May of 2020, ʔEsdilagh First Nation enacted the ʔElhdaqox Dechen Ts’edilhtan (Sturgeon River Law), which is the written version of the Nation’s Tŝilhqot’in Dechen Ts’edilhtan (traditional laws) which have existed since time immemorial. This law states that all who use waters in the ʔEsdilagh caretaker area must keep those waters clean for future generations, and non-degradation of these important waters (through, for example, use for dilution) is therefore not permitted. This written version of Tŝilhqot’in  law has also been endorsed by the Tŝilhqot’in Nation.

The Tŝilhqot’in Nation has appealed a provincial Environmental Management Act permit amendment which authorized a 50% increase in effluent discharge from the Gibraltar Mine tailings pond directly to the Fraser River. In the week of March 15-19, 2021, ʔEsdilagh and the Tŝilhqot’in National Government will participate in the virtual appeal hearing before the BC Environmental Appeal Board and we ask for the support of all other First Nations in BC in this important appeal.



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