Photo submitted. With four of their six communities under threat of nearby wildfires, the Tsilqhot’in say the fact Taseko Mines Ltd. has been given a mineral exploration drilling permit for its New Prosperity Mine project in the Chilcotin is a real blow.

Tsilhqot’in communities shocked by drilling permit approval

With thousands of hectares of wildfires forcing evacuations in their communities the Tsilhqot’in say a recently approved drilling permit comes as a huge blow.

“The Nation is outraged that the BC Ministry of Energy and Mines has issued permits to allow Taseko Mines Ltd. to conduct extensive pre-construction exploration for the New Prosperity mine proposal,” the Tsilhqot’in National government said in a press release Monday. “This mine cannot be built. It was rejected twice by the Harper-era Federal Government in 2010 (Prosperity) and 2014 (New Prosperity) due to strong opposition by the Tsilhqot’in Nation and unacceptable environmental and cultural impacts.”

Xeni Gwet’in Chief Roger William told the Tribune Tuesday morning the TNG’s lawyer and mining manager were preparing to file an injunction.

“It should be in within 48 hours,” William said from the Lower Mainland.

The TNG learned of the approved permit by e-mail from the provincial government Monday afternoon.

“We were on a phone call with our TNG communities, which we do every day regarding the wildfires,” he explained. “While we were on the phone I got an e-mail and thought ‘wow, crazy,’ to me it was a low blow, especially when everyone in the Cariboo-Chilcotin are fighting fire, have food supply issues, medical issues, access issues, and smoke issues. Everyone is stressed out and don’t know what’s going to happen or where some of their family members even are.”

When asked if he thinks the injunction will be successful, William said everytime someone goes to court there is always a winner and a loser.

“We have no choice but to file the injunction,” he said. “If we don’t do anything our people are going to go out there and take action themselves and then we’ll be in court anyways because we will have to protect our people.”

For its part, Taseko announced in a press release Tuesday it has received approval from the Province of British Columbia to undertake a site investigation program to conduct exploratory work at the New Prosperity Gold-Copper project site.

“The opportunities associated with New Prosperity are rare. It has the potential to generate significant wealth and employment for the Province of British Columbia and more specifically, the Cariboo,” commented Russell Hallbauer, President and CEO of Taseko Mines Limited. “Once in production, it will employ approximately 600 people and contribute roughly $1 million per day of spending on goods, services and labor. This combination of employment and spending means New Prosperity will create $12.7 billion of provincial GDP and increase provincial revenues by over $4 billion and federal revenues by over $2 billion during its life.”

“The value of New Prosperity has yet to be unlocked, however, I believe the magnitude of New Prosperity’s benefits are such that it will be developed into a world-class mine with the highest environmental and safety standards, similar to our nearby Gibraltar Mine,” added Mr. Hallbauer. “New Prosperity would be similar in size to Gibraltar which currently employs 650 people from the Cariboo region. The development of New Prosperity would be an economic catalyst for the struggling communities of the Cariboo. In authorizing Taseko to do this work, the Government of British Columbia is giving us the tools needed to move the project towards its ultimate development.

New Prosperity is located 125 km Southwest of Williams Lake in the Cariboo-Chilcotin region of central B.C.

The Ministry of Energy and Mines in an e-mailed response said the notice of work decisions are not political decisions and are made soley by the statutory decision maker, who, in this case was a senior permitting inspector located in Kamloops.

“It is important to understand that the statutory decision maker’s authorization of Taseko’s Notice of Work application does not authorize Taseko to begin mining at the site,” the e-mail noted. “Under the conditions of this Notice of Work, Taseko is authorized to collection additional geotechnical and hydrological data to further the company’s and government’s understanding of the potential mine project located in the area.”

In its application, Taseko proposes a 50-person camp, 321 trenches/test pits, 110 geotechnical drill holes, 53 km of new exploration trail and 66 km of access modification.

While the permit goes until Dec. 31, 2019, the ministry said Taseko has indicated it wants to complete the work in the first six months.

Taseko said great care and attention has been taken by each to ensure all necessary steps have been taken to fully meet their respective obligations under the permit including those duties related to consultation with local First Nations.

With files from Tsilhqot’in National Government and Taseko

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