The federal review panel’s environmental assessment report on the New Prosperity Mine must be upheld.
That’s the main message an anti-New Prosperity delegation shared while in Ottawa last week, said Xeni Gwet’in Chief Roger William, who travelled with the delegation.
“B.C.’s Minister of Mines Bill Bennett was there a couple of times lobbying for the mine and we know that the Williams Lake contingent of MP Donna Barnett, Mayor Kerry Cook, Ervin Charleyboy and businesses were there,” William said. “There’s a lot of pressure to approve the mine, but what’s important is the environment and our culture, and the panel report from the panel hearings, and to uphold that.”
William, along with Tsilhqo’tin Tribal Chair Joe Alphonse, J.P. Laplante mining, gas and oil manager for the Tsilhqot’in National Government, Sage Birchwater of the Fish Lake Alliance based in Williams Lake and Patricia Spencer of Friends of Fish Lake based near 100 Mile House made up the delegation.
“When we met with the NDP MPs and Liberal MP John McKay, they told us they understood where we were coming from and they will bring our concerns forward,” William said. “We met with one Conservative MP. This MP is pretty new to the project, but we had a discussion about the history of the project. He didn’t say one way or the other, but he was happy to be involved.”
Birchwater said the group also urged everyone to honour the environmental assessment process.
“If you don’t respect your scientists, you’re lost,” he said.
Spencer echoed William and Birchwater, saying it is important to uphold the findings of the independent federal review panel.
“The panel found that water treatment would be needed for Fish Lake, it wouldn’t be an option, and it would be cost prohibitive,” Spencer said.
While in Ottawa the group also met deputy ministers, Colin Carrie, parliamentary secretary to Minister of Environment Leona Aglukkaq, Amnesty International, MiningWatch, Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency staff and Joan Kuyek, who made a presentation at the panel hearings in Williams Lake.
The group was also joined by National Chief Shawn Atleo and his staff, and Grand Chief Stewart Philip by phone.
“There’s been a lot of lobbying on both sides,” William said. “At the end of the day, we as Tsilhqot’in have been meeting and discussing. Whichever way the decision goes, we are preparing for it.”