WLIB seeks recourse on Mt. Polley expansion

A permit by the Ministry of Energy and Mines to allow an expansion of the Mount Polley Mine has the Williams Lake Indian Band considering its options.

A permit by the Ministry of Energy and Mines to allow an expansion of the Mount Polley Mine has the Williams Lake Indian Band considering its options.

On Aug. 15 the ministry issued a permit authorizing the expansion of Mount Polley’s boundary, the construction of a temporary waste dump site for potentially acid generating rock and the disturbance of 190 hectares of land around the existing mine site, according to a WLIB news release.

However, the band charges that the province has the duty to consult with First Nations on such a project and has not done so in regards to the approved expansion.

“The Crown has a duty to consult and must initiate a process of meaningful consultation whenever a project or authorization has the potential to infringe or adversely affect the Aboriginal rights of a First Nations,” said WLIB Chief Ann Louie.

“In the case of Mount Polley Mine, the area is of great importance to WLIB for hunting and gathering and exercise of our traditional practices.”

Kirk Dressler, communications co-ordinator with the WLIB, says the company and the band had begun a consultation process that would have allowed the WLIB to review permit materials.  He says that was interrupted by the arrival of the permit from the ministry approving the expansion.

Dressler says the next step in an appeal to the chief inspector of mines who made the decision on the permit expressing the WLIB’s concerns. If there is no remedy through the Mines Act, says Dressler, then the WLIB could contemplate its legal options. The band council would make that decision, he says.

“We didn’t want to wind up being in this situation with a private industry affecting an operation that gives employment to people but there’s a process that has to be followed and concerns that have to be addressed.

“We can’t stand idly by and watch this kind of thing go on so it’s just frustrating to be put in this position.”

Officials from Mount Polley Mine were unavailable to comment on this story by press time.