Admist the wildfire crisis Xeni Gwet’in Chief Roger William said the Tsilhqot’in are celebrating because Taseko Mines Ltd. will not proceed at this time with exploration drilling for its New Prosperity Mine project near Tetztan Biny (Fish Lake).
“We are happy because we were telling the province not to approve the drilling permit,” William told the Tribune. “We were saying all along it did not make sense, especially because the federal government turned the project down two times.”
William said the federal government has commenced its own court action to permanently prohibit Taseko Mines from carrying out the drilling program and filed a petition in the BC Supreme Court on Aug. 10, arguing the drilling program would violate the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012.
“We are excited because Canada is looking after our position,” William said.
The move by the federal government comes after the Tsilhqot’in National Government was in BC Supreme Court in Victoria the week of July 30 to argue its own injunction against the province’s approval of the drilling permit.
William said BC Supreme Court has withheld making a decision because of the federal government’s court action and Taseko’s commitment.
Taseko’s vice-president of corporate affairs Brian Battison said the provincial government issued the notice of work permit so the company could gather information that would be helpful to the mine’s act permitting process and ultimately to procure federal authorization to move forward with the project.
“We wanted to gather information around the mine site to add to what is already available,” Battison said.
Taseko did not plan to drill in Fish Lake but upstream of the lake where the structures for the mine would be developed, he added, noting the project was intended to take place during the next three years in intervals.
“It really boils down to a difference of opinion between the provincial government and the federal government,” Battison said. “On the one hand we have the provincial government who has authority of the possibility for mine development in the province saying this work is appropriate and you can go ahead and do the work and then the federal government in the form of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency saying no to us.”
Taseko took the step to suspend the work until the matter gets sorted out between the province, the government of Canada and the company.
“It is obviously a misunderstanding about the nature of the work and why the work’s being done,” Battison said.
In February Taseko was in court with its two judicial reviews against the CEAA and is still awaiting a decision.
“We were expecting to hear by the end of the year, but it could be longer,” Battison said.
Battison also the company has not given up on the New Prosperity Mine.
However, Yunesit’in Chief Russell Myers Ross said the TNG believe the location is the wrong place for mining activity.
“It remains clear that we do not want this place disturbed and can only pray that Taseko Mines will respect this,” Myers Ross said. “As a leader of Yunesit’in, I intend on investing time through the Dasiqox Tribal Park to define what we want to see in Nabas and Teztan Biny.”