The Federal Government has rejected the New Prosperity Mine.
In a decision statement issued Wednesday evening, Minister of the Environment Leona Aglukkaq concluded the proposed controversial gold-copper mine project is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects that cannot be mitigated.
As the news filtered through the Cariboo-Chilcotin strong reactions emerged from both sides.
Williams Lake Mayor Kerry Cook and MLA Donna Barnett said they were disappointed.
First Nations leaders said it was time to celebrate.
Aglukaaq said the Governor in Council has determined the significant environmental effects are not justified in the circumstances for the project to go ahead.
When asked if anything jumped out specifically from the panel report, the minister’s office said it is concurring with the evidence of the current review panel report suggesting the proponent’s plan does not adequately address concerns related to the preservation of Fish Lake.
Aglukkaq also left the door open for another proposal on the project and said in a press release government will continue to make responsible resource development a priority and invites the submission of another proposal that addresses the government’s concerns.
First Nations leaders, however, called for an end to the project entirely.
“We are talking about one of the few areas in Canada to have a court declaration of proven Aboriginal rights, so it is no surprise that the government had to reject this,” Xeni Gwet’in Chief Roger William said.
“Now is the time to make this decision the full and final rejection.”
Many residents are “devastated” and “infuriated” with the decision, Cook said.
“People are angry, and the degree of that anger and frustration depends from person to person.”
All of the projects on the city’s horizon such as Highway 97 upgrades, the hospital upgrades and the pool referendum are going to be even more important, Cook added.
Barnett cited the decision as an economic blow to the region.
“New Prosperity meant hundreds of good paying jobs,” Barnett said.
The project meant families could stay together in the Cariboo, rather than having to fly-in and fly-out to work in Alberta or Saskatchewan, she added.
Williams Lake and District Chamber of Commerce president Jason Ryll criticized the federal government for being out of touch with the needs of rural communities and its own environmental review process, saying the process was flawed from the beginning.