Tahltan ask visitors to stay away from their territory during COVID-19

Both Red Chris and Brucejack mines continue to operate under strict pandemic measures

Map of B.C. showing Tahltan traditional territory in red. (File photo)

Map of B.C. showing Tahltan traditional territory in red. (File photo)

The Tahltan Central Government (TCG) is asking visitors to stay away from Tahltan territory during COVID-19.

“The Tahltan Nation is asserting our title and rights and respectfully asking all hunters, wildlife enthusiasts and non-residents to refrain from travelling to Tahltan Territory during COVID-19,” said Chad Day, president of the TCG. In order to protect our communities, the Tahltan Nation encourage everyone in British Columbia to engage in all recreational activities where they reside.”

In a press release issued this morning, the TCG noted its territory’s remote location in the northwestern-most corner of the province, limited healthcare facilities, lack of adequate RCMP resources and large number of elders, makes the people there among the most vulnerable during the ongoing pandemic.

“The closest hospital from Tahltan Territory is approximately 600 kms away,” the release stated. “We have a limited amount of aircraft, airport infrastructure, and pilots available for any emergency medical evacuations. Our clinics have very limited staff, that we desperately need for our local communities and Tahltan people. In fact, there is no longer a functional pharmacy in Tahltan Territory during this time.”

It said the TCG Wildlife Department and wildlife guardians will be patrolling asking visitors to either follow provincial guidelines or leave if they are not.

“Only those providing essential services or strictly following approved COVID-19 prevention measures should be going to Tahltan Territory and only if they have no other option,” it said.

The two operating mines in the territory, Red Chris and Brucejack, continue to produce.

Newcrest, the majority owner and operator at Red Chris, in its latest press release announced it has a $20 million community support fund,

“The health and safety of our employees, contractors and surrounding communities is paramount in our planning and actions, with the primary focus being to minimise the risk of the virus reaching our sites and having effective plans in place to manage the implications should that occur,” said Sandeep Biswas, Newcrest managing director and chief executive officer.

A spokesperson for the Tahltan said Newcrest has gone above and beyond their expectations to manage the risk.

Both mines have implemented numerous measures, as per provincial directives, to keep the mining operations, which were designated essential by the province, going.

These include, but are not limited to: restricted access for essential personnel only, suspension of non-essential mine activities; health screening of all personnel entering the mine sites; extension of rotation schedule to three weeks on, three weeks off; social distancing measures, both for travel and onsite; enhanced sanitation regimes; onsite self-isolation capacity; and onsite medical services.

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