Re: Comments from Brian Battison in the Williams Lake Tribune, June 4: “Comments from leadership shocking.”
As CEO of the BC First Nations Energy and Mining Council I feel it is important to respond to the June 4, 2014 comments by Brian Battison, Vice President of Taseko Mines Ltd.
I first knew of Brian Battison 10 years ago when he was the interim president of the Mining Association of BC, the lobby organization that advocates for mining companies.
At that time he was advocating for the Kemess North mining proposal and opposing the First Nations concerns with regard to Amazay Lake. It seemed to me that Mr. Battison simply could not understand why First Nations would not negotiate an agreement in exchange for turning that fish-bearing lake into a tailings pond.
The First Nations from Kwadacha, Takla and Tsay Keh Dene stated they were not opposed to development but in order for the project to proceed the company had to find an alternative to killing the lake. The federal government rejected Kemess North as proposed at that time.
Ten years later that company and those three First Nations have now signed an interim agreement to consider pursuing underground mining of the deposit thus creating less tailings and not requiring a new impoundment area and preserving the pristine nature of Amazay Lake.
Mining agreements for new and existing projects are a standard practice across Canada between industry and First Nations.
I hope that Taseko will instead support the vision of Chief Joe Alphonse and others who are opposed to projects with unacceptable cultural and environmental impacts while at the same time reaching out to governments and industry to achieve revenue and profit sharing agreements where mine proposals are acceptable to the First Nation.
The Tsilhqot’in Nation has firmly opposed the New Prosperity mine because of its unacceptable cultural impacts and the decision of the federal government to reject that project — twice — must be respected.
At the same time, the request by the Tsilhqot’in Nation for the company to negotiate an impact benefit agreement for the Gibraltar Mine is entirely reasonable and a standard practice for business today. My experience is that 98 per cent of companies are prepared to negotiate agreements with First Nations. How long will Mr. Battison insist on being in the bottom two per cent?
CEO, BC First Nations Energy and Mining Council