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B.C. First Nation says unique deal gives it veto power over proposed coal mine

Yaq’it?a·knuqi ‘it to regulate and review the Crown Mountain coking coal project near Sparwood
Signing the memorandum. Photo courtesy Crown Mountain Coking Coal Project

A British Columbia First Nation is celebrating a deal with a coal company that it says gives it veto power over a proposed mine on its land.

Chief Heidi Gravelle of the Yaq’it?a·knuqi or Tobacco Plains First Nation (YQT) in southeast B.C. says the agreement with NWP Coal sets the band up as both regulator and reviewer for NWP’s proposed Crown Mountain coking coal project, with the right to turn it down.

She says the deal gives the band unprecedented involvement in assessing and reviewing the steel-making coal project, which would be located near Sparwood.

The parties involved say NWP has committed to accelerated reclamation initiatives, best price environmental design, management and monitoring to ensure protection of flora, fauna and water quality in the Elk Valley.

Gravelle says she hopes the process will become a model for how future resource projects on Indigenous lands will be regulated.

“For too long, Indigenous nations have not been brought to the table in decision-making directly affecting our rights and interests,” she said. “We look forward to working with NWP and the regulator as we exercise our full seat at the table as a decision-maker in our own territories.”

She credits the company, based in New Zealand and Australia, with coming directly to the band to discuss the proposal.

On its website, the company calls the deal a new era of relationship-building.

“This is a huge step in the new era for natural resource development in British Columbia,” said NWP president Michael Grey. “NWP is committed to designing and operating a better project which includes learning from the past, building environmental controls into the project from the beginning, and taking direction from Indigenous nations.”

Pending approvals, the Crown Mountain project would start production in 2026.

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