Tsilhqot’in community members and supporters demonstrated Friday outside of Taseko Mines Ltd.’s Vancouver office with traditional and modern song and dance to protest the company’s New Prosperity Mine.
“There are several of us gathered outside the Vancouver Art Gallery,” said Xeni Gwet’in (Nemiah) councillor Marilyn Baptiste Friday morning before the group proceeded to Taseko’s office. “Youth, elders, others.”
Plans for the demonstration have been in the works for a little while, Baptiste said.
“It’s come together very quickly and should be an exciting day.”
Deliberations over the mine proposal have become a national issue as a test of the federal government’s willingness to accept the advice of its own scientists as well as respecting the rights of indigenous communities opposed to the mine, Baptiste said.
On Thursday Energy and Mines minister Bill Bennett travelled to Ottawa to voice support for the mine.
Chief Joe Alphonse, Tribal Chair for the Tsilhqot’in National Government, described Bennett’s move as a desperate attempt.
“I was floored by the process they went through in Vancouver this week with the media blitz,” Alphonse said of the BC Chamber event held Tuesday, Dec. 10 in Vancouver.
“This is a prime example of how the environmental process doesn’t mean anything and how they can be manipulated by politicians. Taseko’s trying to push the project through politically and it’s disappointing.”
If the project is approved, Alphonse warned the TNG will go to court.
Speaking from Quebec Thursday, where he had presented at the Assembly of First Nations Meeting, Xeni Gwet’in Chief Roger William said he was also surprised that Bennett was going to Ottawa.
“For us this is the second independent panel report that went against the project and this time around was even stronger.”
William said he was surprised Bennett would promote the project because his own minister of environment hasn’t even looked at the project yet.
However, a ministry of environment spokesperson confirmed Taseko has also submitted an application to the BC Environmental Assessment Office for an amendment to the existing environmental assessment certificate and there are no legislated timelines for a decision on an amendment application.
“The ministry did provide input into the federal review and is participating in the EAO’s review of the application for an amendment to the existing provincial EA certificate,” communications manager Kim Franklin said in an e-mail.
She confirmed the provincial amendment review process is underway and will make maximum use of the information generated by the federal panel process.
“Our intention is to avoid duplication of effort and to ensure that we are as efficient as possible in our amendment review process.”
Now that the federal panel report is released, the provincial environmental assessment office is conducting a review of the panel report to assess whether supplemental information is required to inform the amendment decision.
“The EAO may also review other relevant information provided to the panel,” Franklin noted. “The EAO has sought input from provincial technical experts, the Tsilhqot’in National Government and Taseko on the adequacy of the federal panel report for the purposes of the review of the proposed amendment and the need for additional information.”