KAMLOOPS — Saturday marked a historic point in time for two local Indian bands. The Tk’emlups and Skeetchestn bands together made a decision regarding the proposed Ajax Mine Project. The environmental assessment process is currently on pause, but after conducting their own assessment of the proposed copper and gold mine, the St’kemlups Te Secwepemc, or SSN, announced their decision on the weekend.
“Stk’emlúpsemc the Secwépmec Nation (SSN) does not give its free, prior and informed consent to the development of the lands and resources at Pípsell (Jacko Lake and Area) for the purposes of the Ajax Mine Project,” said Chief Fred Seymour, reading from the SSN’s official statement on Saturday.
With the decision, the Stk’emlúpsemc the Secwépmec Nation announced the decision of their review panel on the proposed Ajax Mne. The decision came from the SSN’s review panel, comprised of elected chiefs and councils of both bands, as well as 26 elders, youth and other individuals appointed by their families - 13 from Tk’emlups, and 13 from Skeetchestn - all united in the opposition to the proposed mine.
“We will not waver on our decision,” Chief Fred Seymour told CFJC Today. “There’s no appeal to our panel. We’re delivering that message loud and clear.”
The Stk’emlúpsemc the Secwépmec Nation’s opposition surrounded the planned use of Jacko Lake, an area known to the bands as Pípsell. The SSN wants to ensure the viability of what they call a “profoundly sacred, culturally important, and historically significant keystone site” for future generations of their people.
“You take a look at the way of life of… my people and you take a look at the land, and at the developments that are happening out there. Every day, my language is being lost… the values of who we are…” acting Chief of Skeetchestn Terry Deneault explained, “Our elders, over and over and over said ‘Protect what little we have left.’”
In a statement issued by KHGM Ajax Mining Inc. on Facebook, Saturday, the company stated:
“KGHM Ajax appreciates the effort of the SSN assessment panel members, who devoted significant time and resources to their independent environmental assessment of the proposed Ajax project, a process that was largely funded by KGHM Ajax.”
“Collaboration between the SSN and Ajax, over nearly a decade, has led to a better overall project plan, which will benefit the entire community. the SSN panel’s work has helped us develop a better mine plan.”
“We look forward to furthering our collaborative relationship with the SSN, and we will continue to work towards the successful negotiation of a project benefits agreement.”
For the leaders of the Stk’emlúpsemc the Secwépmec Nation, this isn’t a negotiating tactic; it’s a statement they’re significant stakeholders in the area, and they need to be included at the table when land-use decisions are being made
“Our past Kukp7 said it previous, way back in 1862: We’ve never ceded, surrendered or given up any of that land, and we never will.”
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