VANCOUVER – Federal cabinet will again need to decide the fate of a controversial B.C. mine. The environmental assessment hearings for the “New Prosperity” mine proposal are drawing to a close this week, with the proponent Taseko Mines Ltd. stumbling to the finish line. The hearings, which began on July 22 under the new expedited process, conclude this Thursday, August 22.
The proposal, for an enormous open-pit gold and copper mine, is being brought forward for the second time by the company. The Tsilhqot’in Nation continues to withhold consent for the project to be developed within their traditional territories.
Following the conclusion of the hearings, the panel will file a report to the federal cabinet that will then decide whether the project will get federal approval.
“What is really shocking about this whole process is that even the mining company acknowledges that the most recent proposal presents more environmental risk than the proposal that was rejected by the federal government in 2010,” says Harjap Grewal, Pacific Regional Organizer for the Council of Canadians. “The hearings exposed overwhelming concern about this proposal, including from Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Environment Canada and B.C.’s Ministry of Energy and Mines. We can only hope that those offering political support for this project from the provincial and federal governments are listening.”
The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency panel has been told by presenters and submissions that the project is untested, unproven, and that the company is underestimating the impacts on the local watersheds and Teztan Biny (Fish Lake), a pristine lake with a genetically unique species of rainbow trout. The area is also a sacred site for the Tsilhqot’in communities who are overwhelmingly opposed to the project.
“The fact that the company still wants to develop this project after listening to the significance of this area for these communities is disrespectful. They even requested that the panel deny the Tsilhqot’in the right to offer a traditional welcoming to the lands during the hearings. There are so many reasons to stop Taseko Mines from getting their way,” says Grewal.
The Council of Canadians, both at the national level and through its Williams Lake Chapter, has been working in support of the Tsilhqot’in Nation's campaign to defend Teztan Biny against both the past and current proposals by Taseko Mines Ltd.
“On behalf of the 75,000 supporters of the Council of Canadians I want say that we stand in total and absolute solidarity with Tsilhqot’in people in your struggle against Taseko Mines,” stated Maude Barlow, National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians, during a demonstration outside the Taseko Mines Ltd. annual general meeting in 2012.
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