The Williams Lake Indian Band and Gibraltar Mines Ltd. have signed a Participation and Co-operation agreement with respect to Taseko’s Gibraltar copper-molybdenum mine northeast of Williams Lake.
During a signing ceremony held at Sugar Cane community gym, Wednesday, Chief Ann Louie said the agreement will benefit both parties.
“I have stated previously that we are here to stay. The projects we have to deal with are here on a temporary basis and have the potential to affect us for years after they are gone,” she said.
Being good stewards of the land is a responsibility, she added.
“WLIB has always stated it would seek agreements with companies who are in the position of extracting natural resources and have the potential to infringe on our aboriginal rights and title.”
Gibraltar Mines transports its minerals and products through WLIB’s main reserve and alternate routes along Hwy. 97 across two other WLIB reserves.
“Future plans for this mine affect us as well. Although the actual mine site itself is in Xat’sull stewardship area that is not the only area of impact created by the mine,” Louie said.
The agreement addresses a variety of issues ranging from environmental management, employment and contracting, to economic benefits flowing from the operation of Gibraltar Mine.
“The majority of our community members are youth and they must have a chance of getting good paying employment so they can support their families.”
Signing agreements gives the WLIB satisfaction that First Nations are being heard, especially in the area of environmental issues.
The agreement is intended to establish a cooperative and mutually respectful working relationship which will allow both parties to meet their respective obligations and protect their rights, values and interests.
Russell Hallbauer, president and CEO of Taseko, said he was honoured to enter into the agreement.
“This is a generational business in terms of the opportunity it provides to everyone across the broad community,” he said.
Taseko is very excited to be in the Cariboo and continuing to develop the mine at Gibraltar, along with participation from the WLIB.
Thanking Louie for her leadership in reaching the agreement, Hallbauer said she has an eye for the future.
“You have a vision for helping your people, particularly all the young people.”
Mayor Kerry Cook described Louie as a “leader amongst leaders,” and said the signing ceremony was about celebrating opportunities.
“The leadership shown by Taseko and WLIB speaks volumes and fills my heart with hope that we have a solid future working together.”
Cook also thanked Hallbauer for Taseko’s investment into Gibraltar and the community.
The agreement shows leadership of chief and council and the understanding of the elders on how the future for young people must unfold, Cariboo Chilcotin Liberal MLA Donna Barnett said.
“Sometimes it’s tough to stand up and make decisions, but the right decisions go a long way.” It also shows Taseko’s dedication into working with First Nations and communities to make life better, she said.
“At the end of the day we remember one thing, respect. Respect for people’s territories, respect for their families and respect for that which they need to live in a world today that is sometimes complicated.”
Joan Sorley, Cariboo Regional District Area F director, congratulated chief and council.
“The hope that is in this room is palatable and it is very exciting,” Sorley said.
“Congratulations to Taseko and Gibraltar and all the hard work that has gone on from both sides.”
Cariboo North MLA Bob Simpson commended WLIB’s willingness to embrace development on traditional territory while protecting the rights of future generations to benefit from that as well as to seek a sustainable way of developing resources.
“It is a celebration and it is a move forward and I hope it’s the beginning of a very productive constructive relationship between WLIB and Gibraltar for the continuation and development of that mineral resource,” Simpson said.
Special project coordinator and WLIB band Coun. Willie Sellars said mining is here to stay.
“We have to embrace it and move forward in creating these opportunities businesses like Taseko and Mount Polley.”
It won’t only benefit the WLIB, but the whole region, he added.