Measured and costly legal action seeks to find a reasonable way forward
WILLIAMS LAKE, BC, Nov. 15, 2011 /CNW/ - In response to attempts by
Taseko Mines Ltd. (TML) to begin exploration activities near Teztan
Biny, the Tsilhqot'in Nation on Monday November 14th filed an injunction against the company to halt its plans for extensive
road-building, drilling, excavation of test pits, and timber clearing
in support of its unprecedented and controversial resubmitted bid for
approval of its soundly rejected Prosperity Mine project.
The Tsilhqot'in have already filed an application for Judicial Review to
invalidate or suspend the work permits prematurely issued to TML by the
Provincial government, on the grounds that the Tsilhqot'in were not
properly consulted and their serious concerns were ignored. The
Tsilhqot'in Nation has proven Aboriginal rights to hunt and trap
throughout the area and a ruling from the B.C. Court of Appeal is
expected any day.
"We are seeking every reasonable path available to us, despite our
limited resources, to ensure that Tsilhqot'in rights are protected in
the face of a company and a government that do not understand how
unique and important this area is to our communities," said Chief Joe
Alphonse, Chair of the Tsilhqot'in National Government, which
represents six First Nations. "We view the B.C. exploration permits as
illegal as they have failed to accommodate our already proven
Aboriginal rights to this area - rights which will be adversely
impacted by the significant amount of roads, drilling and test pits
proposed by the company."
Xeni Gwet'in Chief Marilyn Baptiste said: "Our people are deeply
frustrated that having defeated this project last year, we are now
faced with having the company once again cause extensive destruction -
using permits issued in breach of our consultation rights - in an
effort to promote a mining option that TML, Environment Canada, and the
first federal review panel have all clearly stated is worse than the
company's preferred plan.
"We are particularly offended that the company is claiming this work is
needed to save Teztan Biny when its own chief engineer and other
officials told the review panel last year that the option now being
pursued cannot save the lake, would poison it in the long run, would
kill its support ecosystem, and raise other environmental concerns,"
said Chief Baptiste.
Five weeks before it was even known if there would be a federal review
of this company's rebid, BC issued permits to TML to cut timber and
build over 23Kms of road, to drill, clear timber and dig large pits.
This provincial permitting came on the heels of an independent audit
which showed the BC Environmental Assessment Office engaged in deeply
flawed "rubberstamp" process for the original Prosperity Mine project.
This process also failed to meet the minimum standards as set out in
the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
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, TNG Mining Manager: 250-267-3759 Chief Marilyn Baptiste: 250-267-1401