Tsilhqotin launch court case against exploration approvals for the controversial 'New' Prosperity proposal
Tsilhqot’in charge British Columbia with breaches of consultation duties
WILLIAMS LAKE, BC. Nov. 11, 2011: The Tsilhqot’in Nation has launched a court challenge asking the B.C. Supreme Court to invalidate or suspend approvals granted by British Columbia to Taseko Mines Limited for extensive drilling, excavation, timber clearing, road construction and other exploratory work for its controversial “New” Prosperity Mine.
The Tsilhqot’in Nation and the Xeni Gwet’in (one of the Tsilhqot’in communities closest to the proposed mine) filed a petition for judicial review of the approvals yesterday. The petition alleges that Crown officials breached their duties to consult and accommodate the Tsilhqot’in and failed to extend even “the most basic courtesies of consultation”, such as notice that approvals for drilling and road construction were granted. Six weeks after the approval for this work, the Tsilhqot’in are still waiting for a rationale for the decision.
Xeni Gwet’in Chief Marilyn Baptiste said that the Tsilhqot’in consider the affected area “a cultural school, a place for social gatherings, a ‘grocery store’ for country foods, and a place for ceremony”. Last November, the Federal Government rejected the original Prosperity Mine proposal, based on a scathing report by an independent federal panel highlighting a host of environmental and cultural impacts, including “high magnitude” and “irreversible” impacts on Tsilhqot’in traditional use in this area of “unique and special significance to the Tsilhqot’in”.
“This company went through years of exploration for its failed first bid,” said Chief Baptiste, “Now they want to go back in there and drill more holes, dig nearly 60 test pits and clear over 23 kilometres of road, all for this new mine proposal that the company knows – and has publicly stated – is worse for the environment that its preferred option. We are appealing to the court to uphold the principles of fairness and justice.”
“We’re talking about serious impacts for our rights and our culture,” said Chief Joe Alphonse, Tribal Chair of the Tsilhqot’in National Government. “The Province refused to acknowledge these impacts, no matter what we say; it is more concerned with handing over approvals. We’ve gone to court before, we’ve stood in front of the federal panel, we have proven over and over again how important these lands are to our people and our culture – but the Province never seems to get the message”.
Their lawyer, Jay Nelson, said: “it’s alarming that the Province didn’t take basic steps like notifying the Tsilhqot’in when it approved the drilling and road construction in this area. It handed the company this approval six weeks ago and the Tsilhqot’in are still waiting for a rationale for the decision. We all know this is a high conflict situation, and this kind of disrespect only throws fuel on the fire”.
Media contacts: Jay Nelson (Woodward and Company LLP) 778.678.4699.
Chief Joe Alphonse, TNG Tribal Chair & Chief of Tl’etinqox-t’in (250-305-8282 – Messages Only)
Ten facts that show why resubmitted Prosperity Mine proposal cannot be approved:
1. 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.”
2. 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.”
3. 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.”
4. 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.”
5. 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.”
6. 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 environment.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. 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.
10. 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.
Posted by: Wolfgang Zilker Friday Nov 11, 2011 09:37
Categories: First Nations, TNG, Xeni Gwet'in | Tags: court case, exploration approval