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NEWS: Environmental assessment process for Fish Lake begins

The Canadian Press reports, “With all eyes on hearings for the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline that would link Alberta’s oil sands to tankers on the B.C. coast, a federal environmental review of another contentious B.C. project (the Prosperity Mine near Fish Lake) is quietly getting underway.”

“The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency has released guidelines and terms of reference that will form the framework for an environmental review of Taseko Mines Ltd.’s proposed Prosperity gold and copper mine in the B.C. Interior. The agency is seeking comments on the documents until Feb. 22.”

“But the approach of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government toward the federal hearings on the Northern Gateway doesn’t give First Nations opponents much faith in the environmental review of the mine. ‘We feel the writing’s on the wall,’ Chief Joe Alphonse, leader of the Tsilqhot’in National Government, said in an interview. ‘Mr. Harper is making statements around the Enbridge project that anyone opposing the project is an enemy of Canada. That’s the same situation.’ Alphonse said he fears that approval of the Prosperity Mine, 125 kilometres southwest of Williams Lake, B.C., is a foregone conclusion. The Tsilqhot’in will still take part in the review, however, ‘as distasteful as that might be,’ Alphonse said.”

At the World Economic Forum in Davos last Thursday, Harper stated that his government “will soon take action to ensure that major energy and mining projects are not subject to unnecessary regulatory delays…” The next day natural resources minister Joe Oliver said he plans on making “system-wide legislative changes” to the current regulatory system that will include firm deadlines so projects are not delayed for years by environmental assessments. That is on top of the news that the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency faces a further $13 million funding cut and a one-third reduction in the number of full-time staff. And it does seem clear that Harper wants the Prosperity Mine to proceed. When he was in Nunavut this past August visiting a mine there that would dump its waste into a freshwater lake, Harper stated, “Obviously, when you dig holes here you create some environmental issues and those have to be addressed, but that can’t stop development.”

The Council of Canadians continues to stand in solidarity with the Tsilhqot’in Nation which includes the Xeni Gwet’in, Tl’esqoxt’in, Yunesit’in, Tl’etinqox, Tsi Del Del, and Ulkatcho communities. In May 2010, anticipating that the first federal review panel would approve the destruction of Fish Lake, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow supported the use of non-violent civil disobedience when she stated, “We will stand shoulder to shoulder with the Tsilhqot’in to protect this lake.”