Here’s another of those reports of sites that suddenly turn out to be sacred when the miner fails to promise the locals lots of money.

The Sechelt Indian band says exploration for a proposed multimillion-dollar carbonate mine came too close to a sacred cave and ancient village that should be protected archeological sites.

Pan Pacific Aggregates Ltd. is developing two carbonate sites on the Sechelt Peninsula. One is 15 kilometres from Sechelt. The other, the southern site, is an existing mine the company hopes to expand for its lucrative deposits of limestone, dolomite and other carbonates.

Both sites face an environmental review and already have run into heated local opposition from conservationists and natives, despite an existing Construction Aggregates mine, which has produced sand, gravel and stone on Sechelt band land for 17 years.

Work on the southern project was halted two weeks ago after the Sechelt band objected that blasting and drilling had come “within 20 to 30 metres of a cave that was used as a shaman’s site,” said Robert Joe, the Sechelt band’s rights and title co-ordinator.

“Red ochre has been found in this cave, which indicates there was ceremonial usage by a shaman, and the blasting came very close not only to this cave but also was close to an ancient village site,” said Joe.

The band’s charges that mining blasts had jeopardized sacred sites come after 5,000 Sechelt residents, including singer Joni Mitchell, signed a petition opposing all PPA’s mining plans on the Sechelt Peninsula.

Joe visited the cave two weeks ago to ask for a stop-work order with a B.C. mines inspector and mining prospector Rudy Riepe, the original owner who discovered the carbonate deposits and sold development options to PPA.

“There are enough deposits at Sechelt for 100 years of continuous operation, both in low quality carbonate used for cement but also high-grade deposits used for pharmaceuticals, as a replacement for asbestos, in food production,” said Riepe, 74, a prospector for 35 years.

“These environmentalists are just opposed to any mining at all but I’m not going to walk away from these projects and neither is PPA, unless the rules for mining have been changed in this province.”

Jan Williams, chairwoman of the Friends of Sechelt Peninsula who lives one kilometre from the proposed southern mine expansion, said: “We don’t want to become the land between the mines instead of the land between the waters of Sechelt Inlet and Georgia Strait.

“We already have one mine and no one wants two more mines,” she said.

The Friends of Sechelt Peninsula say that Pan Pacific Aggregates appears to have halted its environmental studies for its northern project, in the face of heated opposition.

But Environment Ministry spokeswoman Kate Thompson said PPA’s northern project is still under review and that the work-stoppage order for the southern project came from the Energy, Mines and Resources Ministry.

Jan Williams, chairwoman of the Friends of Sechelt Peninsula, said a full federal environmental assessment review should be done for both projects. “We look at PPA’s plans for the Sechelt Peninsula as one big mine and we are opposed to both,” she said.

“In fact, we want them to clean up what they’ve already done in the name of exploration, drilling, blasting, building roads and dumping rock. We want full reclamation of both PPA’s northern and southern projects.”

And here is a comment from a mining archaeologist on this report:

It can be difficult balancing the needs and concerns of First Nations, local residents, and mining companies. However, solutions can be reached that benefit the interests of all groups. Given that stakes are high for both sides, many parties including both mining companies and First Nations hire heritage consultants to help them negotiate sensitive cultural issues and to comply with legal requirements. These specialty firms generally have a good track record of success and return value to their clients by working out solutions and reducing costly delays. The goal is to involve all parties and reach some kind of agreement before there is any kind of impact to sacred sites, fragile environmental zones, or economic prosperity.