Bennett pushes for New Prosperity Mine

B.C.'s Minister of Energy and Mines has been in Ottawa twice in the last two months promoting the New Prosperity Mine.
— image credit: Monica Lamb-Yorski photo

B.C. Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett has been to Ottawa twice in the last two months lobbying for New Prosperity.

Bennett said the trips were to make sure federal ministers have all of the information about the Taseko Mines Ltd.’s proposed New Prosperity Mine project.

“I met with eight or nine ministers in total,” Bennett told the Tribune Advisor Wednesday.

“I realize there was a panel process on the ground in the Cariboo, but that panel process was carried out by civil servants and the ministers aren’t necessarily aware of the details of the project.”

What’s being proposed in New Prosperity is not out of the norm, Bennett said.

“It’s an open pit copper gold mine that is actually very similar to open pit copper gold mines that we already have, some of which operate in the Cariboo like Mount Polley and Gibraltar.”

Bennett said the province is of the view New Prosperity could be built in an environmentally responsible way, that tailings and water can be captured so they won’t contaminate Fish Lake, which was one of the federal review panel’s main concerns.

The federal review panel’s conclusion that there is a likelihood of significant environmental impact on Fish Lake does create a problem for the federal government, he added.

“I don’t fully understand why the panel landed where it did, given what’s being proposed here is not unusual in terms of the technology that would be employed and the way tailings and water would be captured and contained. It’s something we do quite successfully here in B.C.”

While 37.5 per cent of the provincial government’s royalties received from New Prosperity would go to neighbouring First Nations, Bennett said he wanted to make it clear he recognizes and respects that First Nations are not in support of the project.

“I don’t expect that position is going to change just because there is revenue sharing available.

“What I believe is really important is for the province and the company to do a better job of respectful engagement with the First Nations in the area.”

With some impact benefit agreements and some training opportunities for young people in First Nations communities to work at the mine, Bennet said it’s possible, with “hard work” to develop a healthier relationship.

“It’s not a guarantee but it’s possible,” he said.

Bennett doesn’t plan to return to Ottawa to lobby any further, but will continue to engage electronically with his colleagues in Ottawa.

“I know there’s a delegation from Williams Lake planning to go back I think next week,” he added.

“I think it’s important for the Cariboo to continue to express its support for the project because certainly when you go to Ottawa what they’re most familiar with is the opposition, they are not as familiar with the overwhelming support that exists.”


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