The final day of statements and presentations during the federal review panel hearings for the proposed New Prosperity mine project took place on Friday at CJ’s Southwestern Grill.
The event began with singers and drummers in a procession along Highway 97, accompanied by RCMP vehicles.
After an opening statement by panel chair Bill Ross, the presentations started, beginning with Chief Ann Louie from the Williams Lake Indian Band, Herb Nakada, Ramsey Hart from Mining Watch Canada, Craig Benjamin from Amnesty International and Philip Hochstein from Independent Contractors and Business Association of B.C.
Hochstein said he was at the event to voice support for the New Prosperity project. “Wealth-creation projects like this are the backbone of B.C.’s economy,” he said. “This project was a topic in the last provincial election – there was positive and negative response to it and the ‘positive’ won by thousands of votes.”
He also said his industry will help Taseko “protect the environment,” that Gibraltar Mine has had a very positive impact on the area, with more than 90 per cent of its revenue staying “local” and that skilled trades training would be a serious benefit for local workers.
Other presenters included Dr. John Meech from Share the Cariboo Chilcotin Resources Society and Williams Lake and District Chamber of Commerce, who said he is “very disappointed with government agencies for its obfuscation and fence-sitting,” and that there is a desperate need for the economic stimulation New Prosperity Mine would bring.
Chief Fred Robbins from the Esk’etemc Nation said that for the Esk’ememc, there is “nothing new about the New Prosperity project,” explaining that the issue is the transmission line corridor proposed by Taseko, which will directly impact sacred burial grounds, traditional pit house areas and prime hunting, fishing and gathering areas.
He explained that one of the reasons Taseko’s proposal was turned down last time is that the federal panel found the mine would have significant adverse impacts on aboriginal rights and titles, a decision he said was applied to both the mine itself and the transmission line corridor.
“The panel said that these impacts could not be mitigated or accommodated,” he said, adding that the corridor is as important as the mine. “Without the electrical line, there won’t be much happening at the mine,” he noted.
“Why should the new Prosperity project be given a second chance when Taseko only bothered to change the mine proposal and ignore the impacts to the Esk’etemc?
“These lands are the foundation of our people, our culture and our creation stories, and how our lands are used should be our decision,” Robbins continued.
“This will not be a one-time impact like Taseko says – it will be an impact every time an Esk’etemc goes out to hunt, to fish, to gather or to pray.”
Also on the agenda were Grand Chief Stewart Philip, Chief Bob Chamberlain, Councillor Marilyn Baptiste, members of Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, Dr. Marc Pinkoski, Leonard Doucette, Dennis Christianson, Mayor Kerry Cook, David Richardson from Fish Lake Alliance, Jason Ryll from the Chamber of Commerce, Lorne Doerkson, Patricia Spencer, Ann Nicholson from the Williams Lake chapter of Council of Canadians, Frank Dobbs, Ervin Charleyboy from Tsi Del Del, Jane Wellburn from Friends of the Nemaiah Valley, Karina Brino from the Mining Association of B.C., Dr. Bruce Stadfeld McIvor from Stswecem’c Xgat’tem, Jay Nelson, Tony Pearse and chiefs from Tsilhqot’in National Government, Taseko Mines Ltd, and closing comments by the panel chair.