Amended application for New Prosperity Mine project raises objections from chiefs

Taseko Mines Ltd.’s application to amend its assessment certificate for the New Prosperity Gold Copper Project is not sitting well.

Taseko Mines Ltd.’s application to amend its environmental assessment certificate for the New Prosperity Gold Copper Project is not sitting well with two Tsilhqot’in chiefs.

“We are not happy,” Xeni Gwet’in Chief and Tsilhqot’in National Government vice-chair Roger William said.  “Taseko was turned down twice by the federal government. Why go through with it again? It’s such a charged process for both sides.”

Taseko also said it would be filing a Notice of Work (NOW) with the Ministry of Energy and Mines which will allow the company to gather information to advance mine permitting under the British Columbia Mines Act.

“Taseko looks forward to working with the six local Tsilhqot’in First Nation bands as represented by the Tsilhqot’in National Government on the consultative and substantive aspects of the NOW as per the terms in the 2012 settlement agreement,” Taseko president and CEO Russell Hallbauer said in a press release.

Hallbauer’s comment about working with the communities was a surprise to William.

“Currently there is no communication with Taseko and the Tsilhqot’in communities,” he said, noting the timing does not make sense either.  “We have signed our accord with the province to work together for the next five years on our title agreement. If Taseko gets a go-ahead that would really impact our relationship with the province.”

Yunesit’in Chief Russell Myers Ross described the New Prosperity project as dead.

“Teztan Biny [Fish Lake] is preserved as a cultural area, in the headwaters of one of the most diverse ecosystems in Canada,” he said. “It is the Tsilhqot’in Nation’s intent to keep it that way.”

Hallbauer, however, said the ownership and development of mineral resources are explicit areas of provincial jurisdiction and responsibility, granted under The 1982 Amendments to the Constitution Act 1867. The New Prosperity environmental assessment process has been unduly influenced by the actions of the federal government,” Hallbauer said.

The Environmental Assessment Office will need to determine the review process in light of a few things, a Ministry of Environment spokesperson said.

They include Taseko’s court challenge to the federal panel information, the Environmental Assessment Office’s requirement for a tailings alternatives assessment, findings from the Environmental Assessment Office’s review of Taseko’s Certificate extension request, and any relevant commitments under the Neqay Deni Accord, the ministry noted.  The office’s process includes consultations with Aboriginal groups and incorporates government expert technical advice.

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