HOUSTON, B.C. – Coastal GasLink says it has suspended pipeline work south of Houston, B.C., while claims of the discovery of Indigenous artifacts on the site are investigated.
The company says it has cordoned off the area, requested that a qualified archeologist visit the site and the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission will conduct another site visit to investigate the claims.
It says an archeological impact assessment for the site was approved in 2016, but the company and its archeologists were not able to conduct on-site fieldwork during the regulatory and permitting process due to road access issues.
In a statement, Unist’ot’en clan spokeswoman Freda Huson says their members have been combing the company’s construction site for a proposed man camp since heavy machinery turned up the forest floor.
The statement says supporters recovered two stone tools on Wednesday and archeologists from the Smithsonian Institute estimate one dates back up to 3500 years.
It says additional stone tools were observed and recorded but the scale and scope of the work requires assistance from professional archeologists.
In an open letter with Huson, archeologists Chelsey Armstrong of the Smithsonian Institution and Ginevra Toniello of the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation call for a review of the archeological overview assessment and all archeological permits granted to the company in the territory.
The newly found artifacts reveal that archeological heritage is clearly present and that any assessment should be conducted in consultation with the clan, says the letter addressed to the archeology branch of the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.
The Coastal GasLink pipeline would transport natural gas from northeastern British Columbia to LNG Canada’s export terminal in Kitimat on the coast.
In January, the area was the site of a blockade against the pipeline where police moved in and arrested 14 people.
The company says it has approval to build the pipeline from First Nations along the pipeline, but some Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say they haven’t given their consent.