The federal review panel has granted the request for confidentiality, Livain Michaud, panel manager, confirmed Thursday.
A request by the Tsilhqot’in Nation for confidentiality on Tsilhqot’in cultural heritage sites that will be presented during the federal panel review hearings of the New Prosperity Gold-Copper Mine is garnering support and opposition.
Interested parties had until Aug. 6 at 5 p.m. to respond to the request. The majority of people weighing in said they agreed with the request.
Archeological information will be presented to the panel in the form of a report — The Identification of Ancestral Tsilhqot’in Graves within the Vicinity of the Proposed New Prosperity Mine: Nabas and Teztan Biny — during the community hearing session at Xeni Gwet’in (Nemiah) on Thursday, Aug. 8.
“These sites were identified by Tsilhqot’in members in the field and documented by a qualified archaeologist,” TNG Mining Manager J.P. LaPlante noted in a letter of request for confidentiality submitted to the federal review panel.
LaPlante asked that only Tsilhqot’in members be allowed to attend the presentation of the report, along with the panel members and specified representatives of Taseko Mines Ltd. who have signed a confidentiality undertaking on terms set by the panel in consultation with the Tsilhqot’in Nation.
Responding by letter, TML said the request is “inappropriate” and the report should have been filed earlier to be part of the topic-specific sessions related to human environment held Aug. 1 in Williams Lake.
“The TNG Archeological Report was only provided to Taseko by the TNG at 5:40 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 2, following completion of the Topic-Specific sessions and after it knew that participants had dispersed for the holiday weekend,” TML’s letter noted. “Further, despite the fact that the TNG knew the report was being prepared, it failed to give any prior notice of its intent to submit the report.”
Taseko argued the community sessions are not the forum for expert opinions.
“As the panel makes clear in its procedures, the community sessions were arranged to be less formal and to provide an opportunity for the panel, the proponent and other interested parties to hear from members of the communities — not from outside experts.”
Friends of Nemiah Valley president David Williams supported the request, saying it is reasonable and certainly within the rights of the Tsilhqot’in to preserve and keep confidential the knowledge of the location of grave sites within their territory.
Gary Young, who ran as an Independent in the provincial election for the Cariboo Chilcotin, wrote: “confidential requests like this are a form of discrimination. If the involved parties do not wish us to know, then don’t bother with it. Is this another form of government that hides things from the public?”