Every year in May, the Mining Association of British Columbia (MABC) holds the “BC Mining Person of the Year Award” gala. Illustrious past winners include Pierre Lebel of Imperial Metals (Mount Polley Mine) and John McManus of Taseko Mines (New Prosperity Mine). This year, Mining Justice Alliance will hold our own gala to celebrate the recipients of the first ever BC Mining Resisters of the Year Awards. We will honour mining resisters who have stood up for rights, justice and self-determination, facing up to a powerful state-sponsored industry whose track record of injustice should not be celebrated. To find out more and nominate a BC Mining Resister of the Year, click here.
BC Mining Resister: Kanahus Manuel
Nominated by: Gloria Pavez
What are the issues faced by the nominee and local communities?
On August 4th, 2014, the dam holding back a tailings pond at the Mount Polley mine, located on traditional Secwepemc territories of the Xat’sull and T’exelc (Williams Lake) First Nations, collapsed. Around 24 million cubic metres of mine tailings – containing toxins like arsenic, mercury, selenium, lead and copper – tore through the breach and down Hazeltine Creek into Quesnel Lake. Quesnel Lake is a source of drinking water and vital habitat for about a quarter of the province’s sockeye salmon. That toxin-infused sediment is still on the lake bottom, and the mine is still discharging wastewater directly into Quesnel Lake. Mount Polley was the biggest mining waste disaster in Canadian history, and it is ongoing.
What is most important and inspiring about the nominee’s work?
Kanahus Manuel has been organizing and speaking out about the Mount Polley mine since before the devastating tailings pond breach in 2014. She staged a demonstration at the Toronto Stock Exchange days after the spill, participated in the building of the sacred fire at the entrance to the mine, and helped to set up the Yuct Ne Senxiymetkwe camp at the disaster site.
Kanahus is Secwepemc and Ktunaxa, a mother of four and a traditional Secwepemc birth keeper and handpoke tattoo artist. She appeared in a documentary film made by Doreen Manuel called Freedom Babies. She actively opposed the Sun Peaks Ski Resort development on Secwepemc territory and was arrested together with the water protectors at Standing Rock. She is a member of the Secwepemc Women’s Warrior Society and a leader with the Tiny House Warriors—a movement of grassroots land defenders asserting Secwepemc jurisdiction in resistance to the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion through more than 500 kilometres of Secwepemc territory. As a result of her activism, she has been named in several court injunctions and has been jailed by the Canadian state.
Kanahus has continued to speak out, raise awareness and organize resistance to unjust mining practices, including through loud demonstrations at Imperial Metals’ AGMs. On August 9, 2016—two years after the Mount Polley disaster—members of Secwepemc Women’s Warrior Society, Ancestral Pride, and supporters occupied Imperial Metals’ offices in Vancouver, directly communicating their ongoing resistance to the company. In November 2017, the Secwepemc Women’s Warrior Society and the Tiny House Warriors issued a Woman’s Declaration against Kinder Morgan Man Camps–temporary housing facilities constructed for predominantly male workers on resource development projects in the oil, pipeline, mining, hydroelectric, and forestry industries. Reports show a correlation between these encampments and violence against women.
How have governments and the company responded?
The Mount Polley disaster exposed the weakness of BC’s mining regulations which left BC residents on the hook for millions of dollars in ongoing issues related to the disaster. To date the company has faced no charges or fines. In 2015, the government-sponsored investigation recommended that no charges be laid and in April 2017, despite opposition from locals, the BC government issued a permit to Imperial Metals to discharge mine waste directly into Quesnel Lake. Later that year, the Province announced it would not lay any charges under the BC Environmental Management Act. Instead, residents will have to wait for the Federal government to decide whether to lay charges under the Fisheries Act. In the face of government inaction, first MiningWatch and then former Xat’sull chief Bev Sellers launched private prosecutions against the company that ultimately were quashed by the provincial government.
The BC mining company: Vancouver-based Imperial Metals
Imperial Metals has launched projects throughout the region known as BC, often facing opposition from local First Nations and other residents. The company currently operates the Red Chris copper/gold mine in Tahltan territory in northeastern BC, the Huckleberry open pit copper mine near Houston, BC and the Mount Polley open pit copper/gold mine on Secwepemc territory near Likely BC. The company also has mining claims on the copper deposits on Catface Mountain on Clayoquot Sound in Ahousat territory and the proposed Fandora mine on Tla-o-qui-aht Nation traditional territory near Tofino. It is pursuing the Ruddock Creek project, a proposed lead and zinc mine in the headwaters of the Adams River on Secwepemc territory near Kamloops.
“… we will make a stand to stop Imperial Metals from violating our rights. Not one more mountain will be mined, not one more water way destroyed in the name of profit, not one more tree logged to create roads for these mines.” –Kanahus Manuel, Aug 2016
“These lands we are defending aren’t forgotten patches of wilderness; the land is our home. We remain the rightful, lawful defenders of this land we have never ceded.” – Kanahus Manuel (Feb 2018)
Join us to celebrate BC Mining Resisters of the Year at the GALA OF RESISTANCE on Monday, May 7th in Vancouver, BC.