CBC As It Happens – Link and transcript – Jan. 26 Interview with FNWARM Chair Bev Sellars

CBC As It Happens – Link and transcript – Jan. 26 Interview with FNWARM Chair Bev Sellars


For audio – click on the link below Segment ,3 and go to 16.02: 



Guest: Bev Sellars

CH: She’s been telling. Now, she’s decided to show. A former First Nations Chief is taking matters into her own hands to raise awareness for more responsible mining in British Columbia. Earlier this week, Bev Sellars staked a mining exploration claim on private property owned by B.C Minister Bill Bennett. The process was surprisingly easy — which is exactly what she was trying to demonstrate. Bev Sellars is the former chief of the Xat’sull First Nation at Soda Creek. We reached her in Vancouver.

HM: Ms. Sellars, why did you stake a mining exploration claim on this private property owned by B.C.’s mining minister Bill Bennett?

BS: Well our organization, the First Nations Women Advocating for Responsible Mining, have always have had an issue with this with placer mining and you know mining in our territories in general. And we were trying to bring it… we’re trying to bring attention to, you know, the lack of regulation on placer mining, and also how easy it is for anyone to go online and stake it. I did it in less than an hour, and when if I wanted to stake it again, stake another property again, I could do it in less than five minutes.

HM: Did you expect it to be that easy?

BS: No. I was told how easy it was and I kept expecting something to block me because it is private property. Not only Mr. Bennett’s, Minister Bennett’s property, but the properties around there. And so I thought it can’t be this easy. And I kept expecting something to block me. I don’t know what it would have been, but nothing blocked me. I just went on and because I believe it was my first time registering as a free miner, I had to actually go into an office but now I don’t need to anymore. I can just go online and stake wherever I want.

HM: What kind of information did you have to give as you were making this application?

BS: Nothing. I just had to prove… I just got to give some identification to get a free minor certificate. That was all.

HM: And the fact that it was private property didn’t raise a red flag for them?

BS: No not at all no. The fact is that I now have rights on his property. So you know, I could… I mean this is the thing that bothers us, our organization is you know like, if I ever decided to exercise whatever rights I would have on his property, I mean he, and the other private property owners would be there watching every move I made. But the thing that bothers us is in the territory, in our territories where there is no one to keep an eye on the placer miners, that’s where the real problems occur. And I’m not saying that all placer miners are not responsible. I’m sure there are many that are, but for sure there are some Yosemite Sams out there that create a real mess in our territories and you know, go into sensitive aquatic habitats and you know, there’s never enough sufficient reclamation and there’s all kinds of problems. They used mercury. There’s nobody out there watching them and keeping an eye on them.

HM: This is, I guess you’ve obviously done this to be provocative. Is it just because you really have not had enough attention before this?

BS: We’ve been trying to deal with placer in our areas and when I was chief of my community, we actually went down to Victoria to try to do something about it. And we brought a map and delivered it to the Minister of Mines. And what we did in our community was we put all of the mining activity on in our in our territory on a map and we were amazed. The whole territory was covered, and when we went down to Victoria, we delivered it to the Minister of Mines and they were amazed. They didn’t, you know, they didn’t realise it was you know there was that much staking, because they deal with one placer mine you know at a time. They don’t do the cumulative thing. And so we did. And so they asked to keep our map and we let them have it.

HM: Yeah. If you were to actually exercise your right to mine on Mr. Bennett’s property, what would that involve?

BS: Well I you know, there are some exceptions to entering private land. But I have the option of exploring for placer minerals. I have the option to explore, develop, and produce placer minerals you know, on a claim. So yes that’s what I could do. And it’s kind of funny because since it has hit the news, I’ve had all kinds of offers of people, from people, offering their equipment to come and mine, mine the property. So you know placer mining is an issue for many people, not just for our First Nations warm.

HM: And have you had any response from Mr. Bennett?

BS: No I haven’t heard from Mr. Bennett, and that’s the other thing, you know. Like there was no requirement for me to contact him, and you know, he will respond to me if I ever decide to file a notice of work.

HM: Now as I understand it, there is an option here for Mr. Bennett to complain to the ministry to cancel your claim if it’s considered nuisance staking. Do you think that’s likely?

BS: Probably not.

HM: Why?

BS: Well it’s not a nuisance claim. It’s a political statement and it’s so hard to get people to listen to our concerns in our territories. And whatever way that we can do this, we’re going to do it. This is not just for First Nations people. This concerns the general public as well, because all these placer mining people out there, there’s enough that the environment is at risk. 
I mean in our territory, the moose population is down by 50 percent. The salmon that are coming up the river are not healthy anymore. There are so many things that are happening in our territory and nobody is paying attention to that. It’s not a nuisance claim. I mean I wanted to go and be a nuisance, I would serve him a notice of work or whatever.

HM: Is that a possibility if you need to get even more attention to the issue?

BS: I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’m leaving all my options open.

HM: OK Bev Sellers, thanks for joining us.

BS: You bet.

HM: All right. Bye bye.

CH: Bev Sellars is the former chief of the Xat`sull First Nation at Soda Creek. We reached in Vancouver. Earlier this week, she staked a mining exploration claim on private property owned by BC Minister Bill Bennett. We contacted Minister Bennett for his response, but he wasn’t available for comment.

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