Elders and leadership from the Tsilhqot’in Nation are in B.C. Supreme Court this week challenging a provincial drilling permits for Taseko Mines Ltd.
Last July the Ministry of Energy and Mines issued Taseko the permits for exploratory work at the location of its proposed New Prosperity Mine project west of Williams Lake.
On Friday, June 22, 2018, the B.C. Supreme Court denied the federal government a statutory injunction to stop the drilling, ruling the drilling does not violate the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act 2012.
TNG vice-chairman Chief Russell Myers Ross, said in a press release Monday it is not easy for the Tsilhqot’in communities to hear that the nation has to continue to return to the courts to resolve an issue that should be dead.
“Our vision for the land, one that we are creating with the Dasiqox Tribal Park, does not include destabilizing an entire ecosystem,” Myers Ross said. “We want to continue to use our land as did our previous generations and for the generations to come.”
Taseko’s drilling permit authorizes 76 kilometres of new or modified trails, 122 exploratory drill holes, 367 excavated test pits and 20 kilometres of seismic lines near Fish Lake, known by the Tsilhqot’in as Teztan Biny.
Brian Battison, Taseko Mines Ltd. vice-president of corporate affairs, told the Tribune the permits are to go out and gather geotechnical information that would be helpful for the mine permitting process.
“The provincial government authorized that in July 2017, then the federal government said ‘no you cannot do that work because it violates section 6 of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012’.”
Battison said as a result, Taseko was caught in a “strange world between jurisdictions,” so it turned to the courts to ask who has the authority.
“The court decided the province has responsibility for this kind of work under the Mines Act and that’s an important decision for the mining industry because it upholds the Mines Act which is a key piece of legislation upon which mining is conducted in B.C.”
No drilling has been started to date, Battison confirmed, yet added the company plans to proceed with the work as soon as it can.
Taseko hopes to eventually develop the New Prosperity Mine, he added.
“It is one of the most valuable gold/copper deposits in the world — these are very rare,” he said. “One day that deposit is going to be a mine.”
Xeni Gwet’in councillor Loretta Williams is in Victoria attending the court.
She is a Xeni Gwet’in (Nemiah Valley) councillor, spokesperson for Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) defenders, and the chair of First Nations Women Advocating for Responsible Mining.
“Our ancestors, elders, our children, our future generations are standing strong to protect Teztan Biny, Nabas, Yaneh Biny, the salmon, and the wildlife, from the destruction of Taseko Mines Limited’s proposed large exploration project and from any of their future proposed mining plans in this area,” Williams told the Tribune Monday. “The area is too sensitive as the federal government has clearly stated in two Canadian Environmental Assessments.”
Williams said impacts will be too large and First Nations rights will be impacted.
“We want Taseko Mines Limited to quit threatening our health and well-being and leave us be,” she added. “First Nations Women Advocating for Responsible Mining is not against mining, but adamant that it needs to be in a sustainable, environmentally sound manner and have clear consent of the First Nations that it impacts.”