The B.C. Court of Appeal granted an injunction Monday, April 1 to stop exploratory drilling near Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) for Taseko Mines Ltd.’s proposed New Prosperity Mine. The Tsilhqot’in National Government said it is cautiously optimistic. File image

B.C.’s top court halts Taseko’s exploratory drilling, again

An injunction is granted while Supreme Court decides whether to hear Tsilhqot’in National Government appeal

Taseko Mines Ltd.’s permit for an exploratory drilling program in the Tez’tan Biny (Fish Lake) area is on hold once again after the B.C. Court of Appeal granted an injunction Monday, April 1 to the Tsilhqot’in National Government (TNG).

The injunction comes as the Supreme Court of Canada decides whether to hear the TNG’s appeal ofthe B.C. government’s decision to approve the drilling.

On March 22, the TNG filed the appeal, arguing the area in which the permit had been issued for is a site of proven Aboriginal rights to hunt, fish and trap and adjacent to an area of proven and recognized Aboriginal title.

Read more: Tsilhqot’in gather sacred water from Teztan Biny for Vancouver World Water Day event

Xeni Gwet’in Chief Jimmy Lulua, who is in Ottawa this week for negotiation meetings with the federal government, told the Tribune he heard about the injunction while on the plane Monday.

“We high-fived each other,” he said, noting he along with TNG tribal chair Chief Joe Alphonse and the TNG’s legal team were making the trip to Ottawa.

“The injunction gives us temporary relief until we go to court again,” Lulua said. “Taseko seems to have an endless pot of money and investors that have faith in them. But they are going up against the only First Nation in Canada who has title and rights. It’s a grey area for anybody to test that water. To come up against us is not good business.”

Brian Battison, Taseko vice-president of corporate affairs, confirmed no drilling work has started at the site and the company will wait to see if the Supreme Court decides to hear the TNG’s appeal and if the injunction stays in place.

“From a provincial perspective it seeminly endless court challenges of one kind or another has become far too common a feature of trying to invest in B.C.,” he said. “That is impacting B.C.’s reputation as an investment destination.”

For Taseko’s part, Battison said the company’s position remains unaltered.

“We will see this through to the end. The New Prosperity deposit is just far too important to B.C. to ever give up on. The B.C. Court of Appeal said the permit is valid, but the work cannot proceed at the moment, pending on a decision by the Supreme Court of Canada on whether or not it will hear the appeal.

A transcript of the oral decision will not be available for 15 days, the B.C. Court of Appeal confirmed Monday.

Lulua said he will be in Ottawa for the remainder of the week, along with TNG tribal chairman Chief Joe Alphonse and the TNG’s legal team.

“We are hoping to have the transformative change agreement that Trudeau signed on title land delivered this June 26 so there is lots of work to be done,” he said.

Previously the BC Court of Appeal dismissed the TNG’s original appeal to stop the drilling.

Court of Appeal Justice Richard Goepel, in a written decision, dated March 1, 2019, noted “in this case, reconciliation cannot be achieved because of an honest disagreement over whether the project should proceed.”

Goepel ruled the “process of consultation was adequate and reasonable in the circumstances.”

A TNG press release stated the oral reasons given by the B.C. Court of Appeal on Monday emphasized the appeal could raise new and important issues of law, because it would be the first time the Supreme Court of Canada addressed the Crown’s duties of consultation in the context of proven Aboriginal rights.

Read more: TNG appeal against Taseko’s exploratory drilling permit dismissed by top court



news@wltribune.com

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