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Minister offers First Nation control over tailings pond review at Red Chris Mine

The Red Chris mine site in 2007.

Courtesy Imperial Metals

Mines Minister Bill Bennett hopes a new offer will end a First Nations blockade of a northwestern B.C. mine owned by the same company involved in a tailings pond breach in the Cariboo.

Bennett met with protesters from the Tahltan First Nation Wednesday to discuss the week-old blockade at Imperial Metals' nearly-completed Red Chris Mine, 80 kilometres south of Dease Lake.

The minister believes many of the protesters, known as the Klabona Keepers, are satisfied with a proposal that would give the First Nation complete control of an independent engineering review of the tailings pond under construction at the huge copper and gold mine.

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The minister says Imperial Metals will pay for the review, but the Tahltan would have complete control over the firm selected for the probe, and the province would ensure the tailings pond isn't used until it's complete.

The Klabona Keepers set up the blockade at the Red Chris Mine in response to last Monday's collapse of the tailings pond at Imperial Metals' Mount Polley operation near Likely, B.C., that spilled millions of litres of water and mining sludge.

The Tahltan Central Council has said it does not endorse the blockade but is listening to the group's concerns, and council president Chad Day notes the Mount Polley spill raises "new questions and concerns" that Imperial Metals must address.

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