TSILHQOT'IN TERRITORY, BC, March 5, 2012 /CNW/ - The Tsilhqot'in National Government is shocked that Taseko Mines Ltd. (TML) has launched a defamation suit against an environmental group for questioning the company's claims that its 'new' Prosperity Mine proposal addresses all concerns and will save Teztan Biny (Fish Lake).
"We will certainly not be silenced by what appears to us to be a clear attempt to mute opposition and stifle criticisms," says TNG Tribal Chair Chief Joe Alphonse. "Both the independent federal panel and the company itself were highly critical of option 2, which now forms the basis of the current proposal when it was assessed during the 2010 review as a possible alternative - and rejected."
If TML believes it is defamatory to describe the rebid as worse than its original, one wonders why it is not suing the previous Review Panel for stating on page 65 of its 2010 report: 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."
Perhaps it intends to sue its own Vice President - Brian Battison - who on March 22, 2010, on the opening day of the review hearings, 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."
Or might it sue its VP of Engineering, Scott Jones, who told those hearings: "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. You might be able to delay that by moving the tailings facility farther away to Fish Creek South. You may even be able to minimize that, reduce it by mitigation measures that could be applied. But eventually that water quality will change."
These statements are on the public record, and while TML might not wish the public to be reminded of them, it seems unfair to sue an NGO for raising criticisms similar to those from the independent panel and the company itself.
The company also complains that it has worked hard to ensure it has addressed concerns and will save Teztan Biny - Fish Lake - and cannot stand by while this is falsely challenged. Yet, the company has not proved anything yet - that is for a federal panel to review. Our own analysis shows that Teztan Biny will not be saved. Based not only on the company's own comments when trying to push through its first bid, but also from our own information, we also believe that other watersheds and important fish stocks will be threatened if this new proposal goes ahead.
"If it is libelous to dispute unproven claims and to present alternative views, then what is the point of having public hearings?" says Xeni Gwet'in Chief Marilyn Baptiste, "Muzzling environmental groups is not the way to earn credibility. What is clear is that this action by TML will not silence us."
For further information:
Chief Marilyn Baptiste: 250-267-1401
Chief Joe Alphonse: 250-305-8282