In the final hours of a 24-hour resistance gathering on the second year anniversary of the Mount Polley Mine tailings breach, a group calling themselves Secwepemc Land Defenders followed through on a promise and blockaded the Bootjack Lake Road access to the mine.
The blockade began around 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 4, and lasted about four hours.
It was purposely timed for the shift change at the mine, said Kanahus Manuel, a member of the Secwepemc Women’s Warrior Society and one of the organizers of the gathering.
Around 50 vehicles leaving the mine were permitted to travel through, but not before the activists stopped them and explained they were blockading because they did not agree with the mine being allowed to re-open full time or the water discharge permit.
“We had organized the resistance gathering with like-minded people who care for the salmon — the grandmothers, the families of the impacted communities, surrounding and down stream — to come and stand with us that day,” Manuel told the Tribune.
Eventually things escalated at the blockade, resulting in two workers’ vehicles being vandalized by the activists, said United Steelworkers Local 4-125 president Paul French.
“It is disheartening,” French told the Tribune. “With all the backlash that’s gone on since the breach it is the workers — who had absolutely nothing to do with it and have only been working hard to try and fix the wrong — that are the ones being victimized by this whole ordeal.”
Manuel, however, alleged a mine worker driving a car tried to ram through the human blockade and that one of the Indigenous women trying to stop him, climbed on the hood and eventually the roof of the car, and was injured when the man drove away and she fell to the ground.
It is believed both the driver of the car and the activists made reports to the RCMP and filed claims with ICBC over the incident.
The blockade did not interrupt the mine’s operation, but the company is looking into the report of one or two incidents of mischief, Imperial Metals vice-president of corporations Steve Robertson said Tuesday.