By the end of Wednesday more than 30 presenters, some of them very passionate, appeared before the New Prosperity Gold-Copper Mine Project federal review panel in Williams Lake.
On Tuesday the panel heard from Amnesty International campaigner Craig Benjamin.
“I urge the panel to look at International Human Rights law as a crucial source of document to the task you have before you of assessing the significance of the proposed project’s impacts and determining whether such impact is justified,” Benjamin said.
Amnesty International is not against mining, but has seen some of the most tragic human rights violations associated with resources development around the world take place when projects are imposed against the wishes of the affected indigenous nations and communities, he said.
Faltering at the microphone, and admitting it was emotional for him to make a presentation, Len Doucette of 100 Mile House described a town suffering from the economic downturn of the Cariboo region.
“We’re starving in 100 Mile House,” Doucette said, adding the mine will help sustain the economy.
Presenting on behalf of the Tailhqot’in National Government, Joan Kuyek said the New Prosperity Mine will not save the region
“I lived in a mining community, Sudbury, for 30 years and my kids left home to find work elsewhere too,” she told Doucette. “I would remind you there are already two mines in this area that don’t seem to have stopped the young people from leaving the communities.”
Part of Kuyek’s presentation covered taxation considerations and public costs associated with the mine project.
“Taxes from metal mines are less than one per cent of all revenues in the province of B.C.,” she said, adding tax subsidies often exceed taxes paid.
During a presentation on behalf of the city, Mayor Kerry Cook said the project has garnered more attention than any other project in the region.
“From the city’s perspective the project presents an opportunity to develop the region’s economy.”
There are currently two mines operating near Williams Lake and a third mine could enhance the city’s ability to be a mine training and servicing centre, Cook said.
Local author Sage Birchwater challenged Cook to address the “cultural genocide” that would occur if the mine landed in the middle of the Xeni Gwet’in people’s community.
“I think that as a city and mayor I’ve demonstrated the importance of working in relationship with First Nations and will continue to do that going forward,” Cook said.
“I respect their position and I just hope they respect the city’s position as well.”
Speaking in her traditional language, Tsilhqot’in elder Fanny Stump said the First Nations do not need Williams Lake.
Cook responded it was an unfortunate statement.
“As neighbours, the city has appreciated the economic benefits of all First Nations communities,” Cook said.
General hearing sessions wrap up Thursday, July 25, and topic-specific hearings begin Thursday evening and run through to Thursday, Aug. 1.