The Tŝilhqot’in Nation has once again been granted an injunction to stop Taseko Mines Ltd.’s exploratory drilling permit for its New Prosperity Mine project at Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) and surrounding areas.
An injunction was decided by the BC Court of Appeal on Monday until it hears and decides the case.
On Aug. 23, 2018, the B.C. Supreme Court upheld a permit authorizing TML to undertake an extensive drilling program at Teztan Biny and the surrounding area.
“We are somewhat relieved that the injunction will protect the area for two months, but we will end up going into appeal hearings most likely at the end of November,” Chief Joe Alphonse, TNG tribal chairman, told the Tribune Tuesday.
“We will always continue. We will never agree to them moving forward.”
Brian Battison, Taseko’s vice-president of corporate affairs, told the Tribune, originally the provincial government issued a notice of work for the company to do the exploratory drilling.
“The TNG challenged that in court, critical of the provincial government and argued the government’s consultation was inadequate,” Battison said. “The court decided in favour of the provincial government, saying the consultation was adequate and the process was solid and the notice of work was valid.”
Taseko began to prepare to do the work on site by putting up flags, but did no mechanical or intrusive work, he added.
“The TNG then petitioned for an injunction from the court to keep us from doing the work until the appeal of Justice Branch’s decision is decided upon. A different judge decided on Monday to grant the injunction.”
Alphonse said at the crux of the TNG’s court challenge is the fact the Tsilhqot’in are the only nation that has proven aboriginal rights and title.
“Therefore the consultation that is there, is for First Nations people who do not have either of those. So when a First Nation has rights and title, consultation has to go beyond what’s out there. That hasn’t been set yet.”
The potential for the province is if the courts rule in the case that they actually need Tsilhqot’in consent to move forward, that would put the Tsilhqot’in in position to apply that need for consultation throughout every last decision that has to be made in the region, Alphonse added.
“That’s a big gamble the province is playing if it approves Taseko’s project.”
Taseko’s drilling permit approves 76 kilometres of new or modified road and trail, 122 drill holes, 367 excavated test pits and 20 kilometres of seismic lines throughout Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) and surrounding area.
Earlier in July, Battison told the Tribune the company was doing the drilling to gather geotechnical data by drilling some holes and taking soil samples and essentially assess the drainage characteristics of the area.
“There was some doubt in the environmental assessment about our ability to manage the water appropriately. This information that we need for the Mines Act permitting process will answer those questions and rest those doubts.”
Battison said the ongoing delay is the new reality of trying to invest in B.C. and create opportunities.
“At times it’s a long arduous process by which you seek to approval to create jobs and opportunities for yourselves and others.”
Xeni Gwet’in Chief Jimmy Lulua said the connection of the Tsilhqot’in people to the area near the proposed mine dates back thousands of years.
“People spent their time gathering around these sacred waters with their families – with some also laid to rest here,” Lulua said. “Granting this injunction was the only right thing to do. We will continue to work to ensure our people are able to use this area for generations to come as they always have.”
Lulua said it is only a temporary relief until the appeal is heard at the end of November.
“There are solutions available to the B.C. government, and we still call on Premier Horgan to step in and put an end to this drilling permit and the ongoing threat from this rejected mining project.”