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NEWS: Using jobs to justify the destruction of Fish Lake

On Friday afternoon, the federal environmental assessment agency panel that assessed the proposed draining of Fish Lake and destruction of Little Fish Lake for the Prosperity copper-gold mine concluded the obvious – that the project would have ‘significant adverse environmental impacts’.

The front-page Globe and Mail report the next day framed this as an ‘environment vs. jobs’ issue.

It reported, “Stephen Harper has the summer to decide whether hundreds of new jobs created by a proposed $800-million copper-gold mine in the struggling British Columbia Interior outweigh the significant negative environmental impacts, including the destruction of a fishing lake. But the open-pit mine… has already been approved by the B.C. government. While the B.C. assessment foresaw harm to the environment, it concluded that was outweighed by a predicted $5-billion economic injection over the 20-year life of the mine and $600-million of revenue for various governments. …(The mining company) Taseko has said building the mine would create about 375 construction jobs, and operating it about the same number. All of them would be high-paying… There would be another estimated 600 indirect jobs, spun off in the community, Taseko has said.”

Some media reports have even claimed that over the 20 year life of the mine, it would created 500 direct jobs and a further 1200 indirect jobs!

The Williams Lake & District Chamber of Commerce, B.C. Chamber of Commerce, B.C. Business Council, the Mining Association of B.C., the local Conservative MP Dick Harris, town mayor Kerry Cook, and B.C. Mining minister Bill Bennett all say that the mine would create jobs and be a boost for the economy.


The Williams Lake Tribune reported in February that Brian Battison, a vice-president for Taseko, “said some people would need to be hired from outside of Williams Lake, since metallurgists and engineers may not reside in Williams Lake. Other jobs, however, would be available for people in Williams Lake and area, he said. He noted that a 500-person work camp, similar to that of a hotel, would be created and would include other needed jobs such as cooks and janitors, for example.”


In February, prominent local columnist Walt Cobb wrote in the Williams Lake Tribune that, “The (federal review) hearings are coming up and those of us who need work had better be prepared to take a little time from work to ensure there is ‘work’ in the future.” But Jerry West, the publisher and editor of The Record newspaper in the Nootka Sound region, countered Cobb’s argument by writing, “He should stop dragging up the jobs boogeyman to try and scare people into acting against their own best long term interests. What he is arguing for in reality is a few quick bucks now, and disaster for future generations.”


The Tsilhqot’in National Government has argued that the average household in the area lives on less than $10,000 a year. Their well-being is contingent on the ability to fish, pick berries and hunt in the area. The proposed destruction of Teztan Biny and the surrounding area will drive many in these communities to abject poverty.

Their website also notes that, “The Tsilhqot’in welcome and encourage economic development ventures as long as they can be shown to be environmentally and culturally sustainable and bring benefits to the communities they affect.” They have also argued that no amount of money could replace the loss of the Fish Lake ecosystem.

The truth is that the jobs created from this mine are limited and certainly not as permanent as the destruction of Fish Lake.


It is being reported that Prime Minister Stephen Harper will personally decide the fate of Fish Lake by September 2. To let him know that you oppose the destruction of Fish Lake, please write him today at pm@pm.gc.ca.

You are further encouraged to write environment minister Jim Prentice about closing the Schedule 2 exemption in the Fisheries Act that would allow for the destruction of Fish Lake by going to http://canadians.org/action/2010/schedule2.html.

For more campaign information on Fish Lake, please go to http://canadians.org/water/issues/TIAs/teztan-biny.html.