Pursuing project that cannot be accepted is pointless, costly and
WILLIAMS LAKE, BC, Nov. 7, 2011 /CNW/ - The Tsilhqot'in Nation reacted
today with anger, frustration, bewilderment and disappointment to the
announcement that the already rejected Prosperity Mine proposal will
proceed to another review.
"This is a wrong decision that makes no sense to us and raises serious
concerns, but at least the Minister of Environment recognizes these
must be addressed through a public review panel that ensures full
transparency and accountability," Tsilhqot'in National Government
Tribal Chair Chief Joe Alphonse said.
The Tsilhqot'in Nation is also extremely alarmed that the proponent
company, Taseko Mines Ltd (TML), will now try to use prematurely
granted BC exploration permits to further damage the Teztan Biny (Fish
Lake) area by constructing 24 Km's of roads and drill new holes.
"The cumulative impacts from the proposed road building and drilling in
this area of proven cultural and spiritual importance is a serious
threat to our Aboriginal rights, which have been affirmed by B.C.'s
courts in the Vickers decision," said Chief Marilyn Baptiste of the
Xeni Gwet'in First Nation. "Any further destruction would be pointless
as the federal government cannot possibly approve this proposal."
The Tsilhqot'in people are angry and frustrated that they will be
dragged through another costly, foolish and divisive process when the
facts show this resubmission is just a repackaged version of a previous
option that has already been ruled out as worse than the original plan
by government and TML experts.*
Chief Alphonse said: "To avoid duplication and reduce costs, CEAA must
re-appoint the same review panel members. They spent months hearing and
reviewing the evidence for a report that then-environment minister Jim
Prentice called 'scathing' and 'probably the most condemning I have
Chief Baptiste added: "The government is still required under the
Constitution and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of
Indigenous Peoples to reject the proposal to protect our rights. And
there is nothing new here that would allow the Department of Fisheries
and Oceans to reverse the total opposition it has given to this mining
effort since 1995.
"One has to wonder if Taseko Mines Ltd - which has lobbyists registered
with three Ottawa firms and a very close association with a company
that recently hired a former Regional Director for CEAA - are trying
to rewrite the rules. So the government must allow a public,
transparent review by the same panel and one that protects our
Aboriginal rights and title."
Chief Alphonse said: "The mine proponents told us last year, when they
expected the project to be approved, that we should shut up and accept
it. Well, it was rejected and now they should take their own advice and
accept this project is a lost cause. Canada's First Nations are united
against this resubmission.
"At stake are the credibility of the EA process and the honour of the
Crown. We would all rather be working with government and industry to
find a better way forward for mining in Canada, but this poster child
for all that is wrong with the system continues to stand in the way."
Ten facts that show why resubmitted Prosperity Mine proposal cannot be
The CEAA review panel process was very different from the BC EAO
rubber-stamp decision. Its report found immitigable, devastating
impacts to the local fish stocks and endangered grizzly populations,
and to the existing and future rights of the Tsilhqot'in and its youth.
Then Environment Minister Jim Prentice described the report's findings
as "scathing" and "probably the most condemning I have ever read."
The company knows its new option is worse than its first plan. TML's
V.P. Corporate Affairs, Brian Battison, was clear in his Mar. 22, 2010,
opening presentation to the CEAA hearings, when he stated: "Developing Prosperity means draining Fish Lake. We wish it were
otherwise. We searched hard for a different way. A way to retain the
lake and have the mine. But there is no viable alternative. The lake
and the deposit sit side by side. It is not possible to have one
without the loss of the other."
The point was emphasised by TML's VP of engineering, Scott Jones, who
stated: "What happens to the water quality in Fish Lake, if you try and preserve
that body of water with the tailings facility right up against it, is
that over time the water quality in Fish Lake will become equivalent to
the water quality in the pore water of the tailings facility,
particularly when it's close."
This proposal does not address the issues that led to the rejection of
the first bid last year. Fish Lake will be affected by the toxic waste
and eventually die, and it will be surrounded by a massive open pit
mine and related infrastructure for decades. The Tsilhqot'in people
will not have access to their spiritual place, and the area will never
be returned to the current pristine state.
It is not even new. It is "Mine Development Plan 2." TML states on page
20 of its project submission: "Option 2 is the basis for the New Prosperity design …The concepts that
lead to the configuration of MDP Option 2 have been utilized to develop
the project description currently being proposed."
This option was looked at and rejected last year by the company,
Environment Canada and the CEAA review panel. For example, page 65 of
the review report states: "The Panel agrees with the observations made by Taseko and Environment
Canada that Mine Development Plans 1 and 2 would result in greater
long-term environmental risk than the preferred alternative."
The new $300 million in proposed spending is to cover the costs of
relocating mine waste a little further away. There is nothing in the
'new' plan to mitigate all the environmental impacts identified in the
previous assessment. TML states in its economic statement: "The new development design, predicated on higher long term prices for
both copper and gold, would result in a direct increase in capital
costs of $200 million to purchase additional mining equipment to
relocate the tailings dam and to move the mine waste around Fish Lake
to new locations. This redesign also adds $100 million in direct extra
operating costs over the 20-year mine life to accomplish that task." In fact, this new spending is actually $37 million less than the
company said last year it would have to spend just to go with the
option that it and the review panel agreed would be worse for the
The federal government is required under the Constitution to protect
First Nations, which have been found to be under serious threat in this
case, and is internationally committed to do so under the United
Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. These duties
are every bit as clear regarding this resubmitted proposal.
Approving this mine would show the Environmental Assessment process is
meaningless, and would demonstrate that governments are ignoring their
obligations - as the Assembly of First Nations national
chiefs-in-assembly made this crystal clear this summer in their
resolution of support for the Tsilhqot'in.
The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans has opposed this project
since it was first raised in 1995. It soundly rejected it again last
year. It has no reason to support it now. Nor does Environment Canada,
which, as the CEAA report noted last year, also found option 2 to be
worse than the original bid.
There are many other more worthy projects to be pursued - the vast
majority of which, if not all will require working with aboriginal
communities. Natural Resources Canada estimates there is $350
billion-$500 billion worth of such potential projects in Canada.
Governments, industry and investors do not need to go backwards by
pushing this confrontational proposal and rebuffing efforts by First
Nations to find a way to create a better mining system that would
benefit everyone in the long run.
SOURCE Tsilhqot'in National Government
For further information:
Media Contacts: JP Laplante - 250-267-3759 or Sean Durkan - 613-851-2151