A site visit by the review panel and its secretariat for the New Prosperity gold-copper mine project took place July 12 and 13.
In advance of the visit, Stswecem’c Xgat’tem (Canoe Creek Band) asked if members could accompany the panel during the site visit, but was turned down.
On June 16, Stswecem’c chief David Archie wrote a letter to panel chair Bill Ross expressing the band’s disappointment.
“Your continued intention to exclude us while visiting our territory indicates to us that you have lack of respect for our nation and for our rights and responsibilities within our own territory,” Archie wrote, adding the panel looking at the former proposed project invited all participants to ensure a fair hearing.
Responding to Archie’s letter on June 20, Ross wrote explaining the intent of the visit was to gain better understanding of the geography of the proposed project area in order to thoroughly analyze the environmental impact statement.
“It was the intention of the panel to exclude all parties during the visit out of fairness and not as a lack of respect,” Ross said in the letter. He also said when the previous panel visited the site in June 2009, it did not take any parties along.
Ross indicated the panel may make another site visit if that’s the best way to understand the environmental assessment, but wasn’t making any commitment that a second visit will occur.
Archie responded that his band would want to be notified if the panel is taking a second visit.
“We would consider you coming into our territory unescorted if you make a definite commitment in writing to have a second visit that includes our people. Without that we cannot support your visiting the territory if we are not present,” he wrote, adding the band wants to be alerted if, when and where the panel will go if it revisits the site of the proposed mine.
Ross, however, said he wanted to assure Archie that during the panel hearings there will be opportunity for the band to explain the importance of the area and the land to the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem.