Local organizers disappointed mine forum won’t go ahead

Members of the Council of Canadians who hoped to host a forum on New Prosperity Mine are disappointed it won’t be going ahead.

Organizers who hoped to host a forum on New Prosperity Mine are disappointed it won’t be going ahead.

Four members of the Williams Lake Chapter of the Council of Canadians met with Dr. Ray Sanders of Thompson Rivers University Williams Lake on Jan. 28 and proposed the university host a forum for six participants to present information on Taseko Mines Ltd.’s New Prosperity Project.

“We’re disappointed because it indicates a serious pattern here,” said Council of Canadians member John Dressler. “Dr. Sanders agreed to the suggestion of holding this kind of open, objective, scientific, dispassionate forum with open enthusiasm. Then what transpired in the subsequent weeks was really very, very interesting.”

Initially a forum date was set for March 7, and if any of the organizations couldn’t attend, they could find an alternate speaker.

The Council of Canadians subsequently confirmed that Xeni Gwet’in Chief Roger William, Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society’s Bill Lloyd and David Zirnhelt would participate.

Organizers eventually learned the date wasn’t available for Brian Battison, vice-president of corporate affairs Taseko Mines Ltd., so March 27 was picked as an alternative date.

“Some time later we discovered Brian did not want to participate, neither did the Chamber of Commerce or the city,” Dressler said.

Battison told the Tribune the project is currently in an environmental assessment and it is expected the public hearing phase of that process will begin soon.

“The hearings, which will also be held in Williams Lake, are designed to provide extensive opportunity for the public to observe, participate, and to learn the facts of the project and any social, economic or environmental impacts associated with it.”

Dressler countered that the panel hearings are designed to present to the panel, not the public.

“That’s a very significant difference. They are open to the public but are primary for the panel.”

Battison said Taseko and its staff are fully occupied with the preparations necessary for the public hearings to be a success.

In a copy of an e-mail he sent to TRU, Battison said Taseko appreciated what the organizers were offering to do, to provide a forum for discussion and exchange of views.

“However it is a duplication of effort given that the public hearings themselves are also designed to do,” he noted.

The City of Williams Lake said it supports consultation, but without all parties involved didn’t feel it would be beneficial to participate in the forum.

Dressler recalled that during the first environmental review of Prosperity, the CCC tried to organize a forum, but it was rejected immediately by the city and the chamber.