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Canoe Creek opposes Prosperity review process

The Canoe Creek Indian Band opposes the environmental review process the provincial government has chosen for the proposed Prosperity gold and copper mine at Fish Lake.

Hank Adam, former chief of Canoe Creek, says at a meeting between the Secwepemc and Carrier First Nations, and the Tsilhqot’in National Government (TNG) to discuss the Prosperity project, the groups discussed unity and how to deal with the issue.

“There was some consensus dealing with this issue as three nations, more supporting TNG’s position on this,” Adam says, adding that the province abandoned 18 months of discussions and understandings with Canoe Creek.

The TNG has also decried the decision not to have a joint panel review of the project.

The Ministry of Environment announced an environmental assessment process early July to examine the social, economic, and environmental effects of the Prosperity Project. It had been considering a joint panel review process with the federal government, similar to one that was conducted for the proposed Kemess North mine in northwest B.C. The review will be led by the province’s Environmental Assessment Office (EAO).

Proponent Taseko Mines expects to submit its EA report Aug 1.

If built, Prosperity would create 500 full-time jobs, 1,280 indirect jobs, and would spend $200 million every year for the 22-year life of the mine. If approval is given and the company decides to go ahead, construction of the mine will take two years.

Adam notes that the band isn’t necessarily opposed to the Prosperity project, but is opposed to the process.

“We’ve never been opposed to the project, and I don’t think we’re saying we’re opposed to the project. All we’re saying is we need to have our First Nations’ interests, in terms of aboriginal rights and titles, respected and that there has to be a separate process on a government to government basis with the Environmental Assessment office to deal with those issues separately.”

He says Canoe Creek hopes to meet with the EAO soon, though a meeting hasn’t been set up yet. He hopes the meeting will help with understanding what the EA process is going to be, where First Nations’ interests are going to fit in with that process, and how to deal with the issues if there is a process for First Nations.

See EAO, page A2

“If we can get past that and be recognized as government as well, I believe that if we looked at a process that addresses the issue of aboriginal rights and titles, I think it might clarify some of those issues,” he says. “We have yet to see that in any sort of case throughout the province.”

The band has concerns over a transmission line from the mine, which would run through its traditional territory, and what impact the mine would have on their culture, way of life, Aboriginal Title and Rights.

Garry Alexander, project assessment director for the EAO, says Environment Minister Barry Penner chose the EAO-led process after a year of working to find a consensus on a process between First Nations and Taseko Mines.

“This is our typical review,” he says. “This is a substantive review process.” The Kemess North review panel, he adds, was the only one of its kind in B.C.

“All of the major mines approved and being reviewed are being reviewed by an EAO-led team,” he says. He also noted the Prosperity project has been under the same process since it was introduced in 1995.

“It was only the last year or so the minister tried to leave the option (for a joint panel review) open.”

Alexander has invited Tsilhqot’in leaders to a technical working group meeting in September.

He says the group includes provincial agencies, local government, federal agencies, and First Nations. In addition, he says the EAO has offered government to government discussions with the TNG, and that that offer extends to the Canoe Creek Indian Band.

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