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Naked Truth About BC's Environmental Assessment - The Tyee

Tuesday Nov 16, 2010
  Everyone now sees the process has no clothes, as feds reject same lake-killing mine BC approved.

By Tony Pearse, Today, TheTyee.ca Fish lake photo - Lorna Elkins

The recent decision by the federal government to kill the proposed Prosperity mine project calls into question (once again) the integrity of the B.C. environmental assessment process.

How can it be that one project proceeds through two separate assessment processes with such radically disparate outcomes?

 
BC's assessors were fine
with turning Fish Lake into a toxic dump.

It's like going to two different doctors and having one say, "You're in good health, go home," and the other say, "You've got terminal cancer and six weeks to live!" Only one of these diagnoses can be right.

Environmental assessment is supposed to an objective, neutrally administered, fact-finding process, and results should be more or less consistent regardless of whose assessment process is being applied.

It's not often we have a situation where one project is subjected to two different environmental reviews, but now that it has happened with Prosperity, we have a perfect opportunity to find out what went wrong and fix it.

Nature-threatening list a mile long

When the federal panel issued its report in July it found an array of very serious, irreversible impacts that were not fixable. In addition to the complete loss of Fish Lake, the mine would result in significant adverse impacts to Tsilhqot'in land use, culture and heritage, aboriginal rights, traplines, navigation, wildlife and significant cumulative impacts to grizzly bear.

Further, the mine would likely require water treatment well beyond mine closure and perpetual maintenance of the fish habitat compensation works, meaning a substantial and ongoing commitment of government resources for monitoring, treatment and maintenance in perpetuity, since the company was planning to walk from the property once mine reclamation was complete.

It is no wonder that Environment Minister Prentice called the federal report the most scathing assessment report he had ever read when he rejected the mine on Nov. 2.

B.C.'s assessment found only one significant impact -- the loss of Fish Lake -- but then wrote this off on the basis of a profoundly inadequate fish restocking program in other lakes, plus the claim that the economic benefits (something the EAO never evaluated) of the project offset the impact.

The company's response to the federal decision was disingenuous, to say the least. CEO Russell Hallbauer in announcing the company plans to submit a new proposal once ii figures out why Prentice rejected it, stated:

"Before taking that step, we must learn the reasons why the first proposal was rejected. Understanding the reasons will enable us to address their concerns and work to reduce or eliminate them."

Didn't Hallbauer read the panel's report? The minister had no other reasons (and needed none) except those the panel so explicitly laid out.

And some of those reasons -- the ones dealing with the write-off of Fish Lake -- had been known to the company since it first engaged the federal government with its proposal in the early 1990s. Taseko had been repeatedly told by the fisheries department that a project that involved the loss of Fish Lake was not open for discussion.

Taseko had been advised over the past decade to examine alternatives. The company claims it did look at different ways of mining the deposit, but it always ended up with the same old proposal.

As Taseko stated to the federal panel at the technical hearings in Williams Lake in April, "Taseko has left no stone unturned in trying to find a way to preserve Fish Lake and develop the project... It is not possible to preserve Fish Lake as a viable and functioning ecosystem while at the same time maximizing the full potential of the defined resource. From a mine planning perspective, in order to meet the objective of maximizing the full potential of the mineral resource at Prosperity, mine planners and decisions makers need to contemplate and prepare for the development of a pit that infringes on Fish Lake."

An unfixable proposal

It's amusing that Taseko, so adamant until this point that there was no way to mine and save Fish Lake, has suddenly become attentive to prospects of an alternative when the government rejects the project.

It will be a futile attempt. The problems identified by the federal panel are so major and overwhelmingly unfixable that no project at any scale will work in that setting.

In the meantime, the EAO now has a new executive director. Cheryl Wenezenki-Yolland, having just parachuted in from her stint as B.C.'s comptroller general, couldn't have arrived at a better time. Now is a perfect opportunity to fix some of the endemic dysfunction within the EAO. For starters, she would be well advised to commission an independent audit of how her officials conducted the Prosperity EA process and ended up approving what would have been an environmental disaster.



Tony Pearse is a resource planner specializing in land use and resource management issues involving First Nation communities and territories in western Canada. He assisted the Tsihlqot'in National Government at the technical hearings of the federal panel review of the Prosperity mine.



 

Environmental Assessment Act needs to be revamped - Vancouver Sun

Tuesday Nov 16, 2010
  By Mark Haddock and Chris Tollefson, Special to the Sun

fishlake_aerial_2Ottawa's rejection of the Prosperity Mine did more than just stop an ill-conceived plan to destroy Fish Lake. The decision also vividly demonstrates the problems with British Columbia's environmental assessment law.

The plan to drain Fish Lake sailed through the provincial assessment process without a hitch. Yet then federal environment minister Jim Prentice came to the opposite conclusion, and nixed the idea. He noted: "Fish Lake would be drained, and there would be the loss of all the associated wetlands and a number of streams. Really, it was the loss of the whole ecosystem. . . . "

Prentice's decision was based on a detailed analysis by a panel of experts appointed under the federal environmental assessment law. The provincial government declined to participate in this review process.

The panel concluded that the Prosperity Mine would:

- Create high magnitude and irreversible effects on fish, and significant effects on grizzly bears.

- Destroy an important cultural and spiritual area of the Tsilhqot'in people.

This federal decision stands in marked contrast to the approach taken by B.C.'s Environmental Assessment Office, which rejected expertise from its own ministry of environment and recommended approval of the project. This was consistent with the B.C. office's record: It has never recommended that a project be rejected (although it has recommended further study).

It is time for a major overhaul of B.C.'s Environmental Assessment Act, a law that was severely weakened by the Gordon Campbell government in 2002. The Environmental Law Centre has just published a comprehensive study on how the act can be improved to be more effective and still encourage sustainable development.

Citing precedents from other countries and provinces, the report recommends the following measures:

- Adopt a "traffic light" (green/amber/ red) approach that addresses big-picture issues such as aboriginal title and rights, land use planning and community suitability up front -- before millions of dollars are invested in detailed engineering and feasibility studies.

- Utilize "strategic-level" environmental assessments of government programs, policies and laws -- instead of requiring that everything be addressed by proponents at the "project-level."

- Develop sustainability-based criteria for decisions on whether projects should be approved. The law should do more than set out procedural steps. It should require that a project actually meet substantive sustainability criteria.

- Require more rigorous and objective fact-finding procedures when company experts disagree with government experts.

- Require that alternatives to a proposed project be considered more diligently.

- Compel a rigorous assessment of cumulative environmental impacts of major projects.

- Enable the public to participate in assessments in a meaningful, constructive, timely fashion.

- Ensure that measurable and verifiable environmental performance conditions are placed on approved projects, so that proponent promises can be monitored and enforced over time.

It is clear that the federal government should not defer to provincial processes. One of the B.C. government's "Five Great Goals" has been clearly articulated: Leading the world in sustainable environmental management, with the best air and water quality, and the best fisheries management, bar none.

We support that goal, and call on the next premier to implement it. B.C.'s natural environment is first class -- our environmental laws should be as well. The B.C. Environmental Assessment Act needs reform.

Chris Tollefson is executive director of the University of Victoria Environmental Law Centre, which provides research and advocacy on public-interest environmental issues. Mark Haddock is a lawyer and author of Environmental Assessment in British Columbia.


Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/opinion/Environmental+Assessment+needs+revamped/3834127/story.html#ixzz15Tgb0uxS

 

BREAKING NEWS - Government of Canada Rejects Prosperity Mine

Tuesday Nov 02, 2010
  News Release

Government of Canada Announces Decisions on Mount Milligan and Prosperity Gold-Copper Mines

OTTAWA, Ont. -- November 2, 2010 -- The Government of Canada today announced decisions on two gold-copper mine project proposals in British Columbia. The proposal for the Mount Milligan mine, near Prince George, has been granted federal authorizations to proceed. However, the Prosperity mine project as proposed, near Williams Lake, cannot be granted federal authorizations to proceed due to concerns about the significant adverse environmental effects of the project.

"The Government has considered both projects carefully, particularly their environmental impacts," said Environment Minister, Jim Prentice. "We believe in balancing resource stewardship with economic development. The Mount Milligan project has been designed in a way that minimizes impacts to the environment, while the significant adverse environmental effects of the Prosperity project cannot be justified as it is currently proposed."

The Mount Milligan project underwent environmental assessments under provincial legislation and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA). The CEAA process involved the conduct of a comprehensive study. Both environmental assessments determined that, with the implementation of appropriate mitigation measures, the project is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects.

The Prosperity project has also undergone a thorough review process, including an environmental assessment by the province of British Columbia and a Federal Review Panel under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. In making its decision, the Government of Canada took into consideration the conclusions of the report of the Federal Review Panel, and agreed with the Panel's conclusions about the environmental impacts of the project.

Related documents:

Mount Milligan
[Backgrounder - 2010-11-02]

Prosperity
[Backgrounder - 2010-11-02]

For more information, please see the attached backgrounder or contact:

Pascale Boulay
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of the Environment
819-997-1441

Media Relations
Environment Canada
819-934-8008
1-888-908-8008

 

First Nations Rejoice in Federal Rejection of Taseko Mines Proposed Prosperity Mine

Tuesday Nov 02, 2010
  TNG logo

For Immediate Release

First Nations Rejoice in Federal Rejection of Taseko
Mines Proposed Prosperity Mine

 
November 2, 2010 - Williams Lake, BC: The Tsilhqot’in National Government and its’ community members are rejoicing in today’s decision by Federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice against issuing permits for the proposed Prosperity mine in central BC. This ruling will serve as a catalyst for reform and a new relationship between governments, the mining industry and First Nations.

“The federal government has honoured its Constitutional duty to protect First Nations rights and its responsibility to protect the environment. The government should be commended for recognizing that this project did not represent the best way to create jobs and economic growth,” said TNG Tribal Chief Joe Alphonse.

“The Tsilhqot’in Nation understands the need for jobs in the region and believes it can work with municipalities and others to build on the environmentally friendly economic activities that are sustained by Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) and its environs and already contribute so much to the area.”

Xeni Gwet’in Chief Baptiste said: “Perhaps there are other projects that can be considered. As we have always stated, we are not against resource development of any kind, just extraction at any price that leads to the destruction of our ecosystem for our future generations,” “However, we hope today’s decision will demonstrate the need to find a way forward for industry and governments to work with First Nations from the outset to identify and develop projects that are environmentally and culturally acceptable and sustainable.”

The fact that a company would spend so many years and so much money to develop and promote this Prosperity project, despite the clear and legitimate First Nations along with DFO’s objections, demonstrates the need to reform BC’s free-entry, on-line staking system,” said Chief Baptiste. “This proposal could not have been more guaranteed to alienate First Nations.”

Chief Percy Guichon said “it in no one’s interest to continue with a system that encourages the development of proposals that should never be pursued, instead of focussing on projects that have reasonable prospects. Companies waste exploration and development dollars, government waste tax dollars and First Nations are forced to use up scarce financial resources to defend against bad or unfair proposals.”

“One of the main reasons there has been no major new metals mine open in BC since the mid 1990s can in large part be attributed to a system that allows anyone with a computer and a few dollars to access anywhere it wants on First Nations unceded lands and develop whatever proposal they want – no matter how environmentally unviable, and not matter how unacceptable to our people,” said Chief Joe Alphonse.

Chief Joe Alphonse added: “Another reason is a provincial environmental review system that does not allow our people to fully participate and does not address the issues that we as first nations need to address. However, there are examples of companies working with other First Nations to address these concerns and to develop projects and agreements that can stand the test of time.”

“Those agreements are positive examples that can be built upon. The federal government decision today will inspire efforts to reform the system in BC to the benefit of all.”

-30-

Media inquiries:
Chief Joe Alphonse, Tribal Chair, TNG: 250.305.8282 (c) or 250.394.4212 (w)
Chief Marilyn Baptiste: 250.267.1401 (c) or 250.394.7023 ext. 202 (w)


 

'Online polls aren't scientific - Globe and Mail editor' - The Tyee

Thursday Oct 28, 2010
 
By Andrew MacLeod

A Globe and Mail editor responded to questions about an online poll being manipulated by saying the national newspaper never claimed the results were scientific.

Supporters of the Tsilhqot'in National Government who are opposed to the Prosperity Mine proposal that would destroy Tetzan Biny, or Fish Lake, this week said the voting pattern in the Globe and Mail's poll about the mine suggested someone was using a computer program to add thousands of votes at a time, The Tyee reported.

“The online poll you cite is not scientific, nor do we say that it is,” wrote Jim Sheppard, the Globe and Mail website's executive editor, in an email message. “That's true of any online poll on any website.”

“That's a little bit dismissive of the concerns, don't you think?” asked Susan Smitten a filmmaker and executive director of the group Respecting Aboriginal Values and Environmental Needs. She said she'd asked the paper to investigate. “[The response] is better than what we've had. We've had nothing.”

Another 3,000 'yes' votes were added starting after 1 a.m. on Wednesday, she said. The rest of the time the poll's been open the votes have accumulated much slower, she said. “The Yes side appears to have averaged single digit votes per hour in between these vote dumps.” There were fewer than 300 votes over the weekend and "hardly any" after Tuesday night's surge, she added. *

“It seems awfully systematic to me,” she said. “Statistically it seems highly improbable.”

While the poll obviously isn't credible, she said, she wasn't sure if people understand that. “Does the public get that? Do the politicians who haven't yet made a decision, do they get it? We don't know.”

She added, “I would be somewhat dismayed if public opinion was being forged on a poll like this.”

* Pace of voting figures clarified, 2:22 p.m. Oct. 28.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria.

 

Okanagan Nation Supports Tsilhqot'in Nation & Reject Prosperity Mine

Friday Oct 22, 2010
 
Open Letter regarding Okanagan Nation’s Support for Tsilhqot’in Nation and Call for the Federal Rejection of the Proposed Prosperity Mine

fishlakeNEWS RELEASE--(Marketwire - Oct. 21, 2010)

RE: Open Letter regarding Okanagan Nation's Support for Tsilhqot'in Nation and Call for the Federal Rejection of the Proposed Prosperity Mine

Dear Honourable Ministers, Premier Campbell and Cabinet:

We are writing to you with respect to Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) Resolution No. 213 which expresses support for Tsilhqot'in Nation and calls for Federal Cabinet rejection of the Proposed Prosperity Mine. This resolution was endorsed unanimously at the ONA Chief and Councils Quarterly Meeting on October 21, 2010.

We are writing to reiterate once again the Okanagan Nation takes this opportunity to express our strong unwavering support for the Tsilhqot'in Nation's rejection of Taseko Mine Ltd's proposed Prosperity Mine. We fully and completely support the resolute determination and absolute right of the Tsilhqot'in to protect their lands which hold profound cultural and spiritual value. We shall not stand idly by and silently witness the obliteration and destruction Teztan Biny (Fish Lake). The Okanagan Nation member Chiefs and Councils will stand in complete solidarity with the Tsilhqot'in and Northern Shuswap peoples in the defense of their homelands.

We call on you and your governments to heed the cautions of the independent environmental review panel. Further, we urge you to demonstrate your commitment to environmental protection. More importantly we advise you to uphold your fiduciary and jurisdictional responsibilities to safeguard the cultural integrity and survival of Indigenous peoples, as expressed both by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and as expressed in the Canadian Constitution of 1982. As representatives of Canada you must reject the proposed Prosperity Mine that will result in the complete eradication and destruction of the Teztan Biny (Fish Lake).

Additionally, we want to advise you that this action is being closely monitored by all Indigenous peoples in Canada as well as Internationally. There is only one acceptable and reasonable resolution, and that is the rejection of this environmental destructive proposal to establish the Taseko Mine Ltd's proposed Prosperity Mine.

Please contact the Okanagan Nation Alliance Executive Director, Pauline Terbasket for any further information at 250.707.0095 or email: director@syilx.org.

Sincerely,

OKANAGAN NATION ALLIANCE

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip
Chairman

READ MORE: Okanagan Nation Tribal Council Resolution No. 213


 

AFN National Chief Joins Tsilhqot’in in Defence of Fish Lake - TNG Press Release

Thursday Oct 21, 2010
  For Immediate Release


Cabinet Must Reject Mine Proposal



Williams Lake, BC. Thursday, October 21: Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo joined the chiefs of the six Tsilhqot’in First Nations in Williams Lake this week to reaffirm country-wide support for their battle to save Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) and to get an update on developments.

“We are grateful to National Chief Atleo and chiefs across BC and Canada who are united in supporting us in our determined efforts to ensure that the federal government lives up to its constitutional duty to protect our rights and its duties to protect the environment and rejects this mine,” said TNG Tribal Chair Chief Joe Alphonse.

National Chief Atleo said: “This project is a bad proposal and a textbook example of how not to pursue mining. First Nations are not opposed to development that is environmentally responsible and respectful of their rights. The current proposal is unacceptable and must be rejected. First Nations, governments and industry must work together on the basis of respect to develop mining proposals that work for everyone,” said National Chief Atleo.

Xeni Gwet’in Chief Marilyn Baptiste of the Tsilhqot’in National Government said: “The support of Chief Atleo and the AFN is vital to us and we appreciate the opportunity to have this meeting.

“There have been many new revelations and developments since the July 2 Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency review panel report found there would be significant and irreparable hard to both our environment and our rights, culture and future,” said Chief Baptiste. “All of them have reinforced our position that the government is constitutionally, legally and morally bound to reject this specific proposal.”

Examples of new information include:

• Access to information documents which show the federal Department of Fisheries warned repeatedly from 1995 onwards that the federal government could not approved a mine that killed Fish Lake, and urged the company and province not to waste time on this idea. DFO continued to oppose the mine during the CEAA hearings, stating that even when using the “no net loss” rules for fisheries, the proposal fails to meet the required standards for approval.

• The provincial government recently confirmed that when the proposed mine, with its 35 sq. km footprint, was still in the design phase, it rejected a small resort lodge expansion in the same area on the grounds that it would be too damaging to the environment and First Nations rights. There was no explanation for abandoning these principles, other than to say more money was involved with the proposed mine.

• The proponent company and people associated with it directed almost $500,000 in donations to BC Liberal party coffers as the BC Liberal government prepared to move towards an EA process.

• The province appears to have accepted the proponent company’s claims of jobs and economic benefits without seeking independent verification. It has refused to consider studies by other experts which indicate the mine will generate only a fraction of the promised revenues and jobs, and that when subsidized hydro and other costs are factored in, the mine could actually cost British Columbians at least $20 million a year over the life of the mine.

• The company has repeatedly portrayed First Nations as an obstacle against jobs and some of those championing the mine – including BC’s Junior Mines Minister Randy Hawes and Williams Lake Chamber of Commerce president and former Liberal MLA Walter Cobb – have resorted to making offensive comments about First Nations culture and have warned that there will be angry repercussions against our people if the mine does not go ahead

• Despite claims of massive support for this mine, the only effort to demonstrate this was the recent release of a three-month old poll, which surveyed a total of 200 people in Williams Lake and 100 Mile House, where the mining company has been most active in promising jobs and economic activity. It ignored the population of the entire region that would be affected. It was conducted by a small boutique company that boasts on its website: “We know what questions to ask, but more importantly, we know how to analyze the results to help our clients win.” Yet despite all these efforts to guarantee resounding support for the mine, the poll still found that one third of respondents were opposed to the mine and 55% were concerned about the negative environmental impacts.

• Mines, Energy and Petroleum Resources Minister Bill Bennett demonstrated how much attention his government had paid to assessing the environmental value of Fish Lake by declaring that this pristine body of water, which is teeming with wild rainbow trout, is one of the top ten catch-and- release fishing lakes in BC and was featured on Tourism BC brochures, was just a “pothole.”

“These and other revelations demonstrate on the one hand the justification for rejecting this specific mine proposal, and on the other hand the weakness of the provincial review process, the paucity of the arguments for the mine, and the depths to which some people have been willing to go to try to generate public support for the mine and incite anger against First Nations,” said Chief Baptiste.
-30-


Media inquiries: Chief Joe Alphonse, Tribal Chair, TNG: 250.305.8282 (c) or 250.394.4212 (w)
Chief Marilyn Baptiste: 250.267.1401 (c) or 250.394.7023 ext. 202 (w)

Williams Lake Tribune article on the meeting - Assembly of First Nations chief visits TNG leaders


 

Natives talk strategy to take on Prosperity Mine project - The Globe & Mail

Wednesday Oct 20, 2010
  By Wendy Stueck
Link to G&M Poll to vote on the future of Fish Lake


With the fate of the proposed Prosperity Mine in the hands of the federal government , native leaders gathered Tuesday in Williams Lake to discuss strategies to head off the $815-million project.

Assembly of First Nations Chief Shawn Atleo met Tuesday with leaders of the Tsilhqot’in National Government, which represents six bands in the Chilcotin area that are opposed to Taseko Mines’ plans to build an open-pit gold-and-copper mine about 125 kilometres southwest of Williams Lake.

The AFN had previously thrown its support behind the Tsilhqot’in National Government, which is also backed by the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs. Mr. Atleo was not immediately available for comment.

The meeting comes as the war of words over the project intensifies, with business and community interests championing the jobs and investment the project would bring, and environmental and native groups saying the mine would result in significant and irreversible damage to fish, water and wildlife.

In a recent corporate filing, Taseko said it believes that “the significant economic benefits that will flow to the region, the province of British Columbia and the federal government as a result of the Prosperity Project will be given prominence in the deliberations of the Federal Cabinet.”
Building the mine would destroy Fish Lake – a small, trout-bearing lake once featured on a government tourism promotion postcard – as well as nearby Little Fish Lake and parts of Fish Creek. Taseko says it would build a new lake, called Prosperity Lake, to compensate for the loss of fish and fish habitat.

The mine, which if approved would be one of the biggest new mines built in the province in a decade, was given a green light by the province in January, 2010. The provincial process, which took economic factors in to account, found that the environmental impacts of the mine would be outweighed by the economic boost it would provide for a hard-pressed region.
But in July, a federal environmental review panel – which did not consider economic aspects – found the mine would result in significant adverse environmental effects on fish and fish habitat, use of lands and resources for traditional purposes by natives and on “potential or established Aboriginal rights or title.”  That put the decision into federal hands.

Taseko operates the Gibraltar mine, an interior B.C. copper mine, and has interests in other undeveloped mineral projects in the province.

In September, Taseko filed a preliminary prospectus to raise up to $300-million for “general corporate purposes,” including construction of the Prosperity mine. In a final form of that prospectus, filed in October, the company said it expects a cabinet decision on the Prosperity project in October.

As weeks pass without a decision, there has been some volatility in the company’s stock. Taseko shares fell 73 cents, or 11 percent, to close at $6.21 on Oct. 14, the biggest one-day decline since July 5. During the day, shares dropped by as much as 34 percent, the largest intraday drop since 1990. Taseko said it was unaware of any information that would cause the price of the company’s stock to change materially.

The dispute over Fish Lake is unfolding as the provincial government is pursuing revenue-sharing agreements for native bands in connection with new mine projects.

The first two such agreements were announced in August, when the province signed revenue-sharing deals for the New Afton Mine near Kamloops and the Mount Milligan mine in central B.C.

TNG chiefs have stated they are not interested in a revenue-sharing agreement for the Prosperity Mine.



 

Tsilhqot'in horse tamers defending the lake - APTN

Wednesday Oct 13, 2010
  APTN National NewsTaseko AGM rally 4

The fight is now well publicized.

The sides clearly defined.

British Columbia mining company Taseko has plans that some fear threatens the very existence of the Tsilhqot’in.

APTN National News reporter Rob Smithtravelled to Tsilhqot’in territory and reports on a people whose history shows a resolve to protect their unique way of life.

Watch the video feature here.


 

First Nations Court Date Expected Soon - Fort McMurray Today

Friday Oct 08, 2010
  Carol Christian
Today staff

Friday is the deadline First Nations' counsel has for filing its affidavits in legal action against the federal government for failing to protect endangered woodland caribou herds.

Beaver Lake First Nation Chief Alphonse Lameman filed the legal action Sept. 8 with the Federal Court in Edmonton. The small Cree band from northeastern Alberta is joined in the action by the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation of Fort Chipewyan and the Enoch Cree First Nation near Edmonton.

The First Nations claim Environment Canada Minister Jim Prentice and his ministry have known about the precipitous decline of the woodland caribou, but have not done anything to protect the species in northeastern Alberta or its habitat.

Ecojustice filed a similar application in the same court on behalf of the Alberta Wilderness Association and the Pembina Institute. The application asks the court to order Prentice to recommend emergency protections for seven caribou herds in northeastern Alberta.

The woodland caribou is listed as a threatened species under Canada's Species at Risk Act.

"Without immediate protection from industrial activities, these herds will disappear," said Barry Robinson, Ecojustice staff lawyer, in a statement. "This application is the next logical step to force some sort of response. We are hopeful that the court will require the minister to do what he is legally required to do: protect a threatened species."

The caribou protection challenge is a parallel case to one the BLFN filed in May 2008: the main constitutional challenge focusing on treaty violations by the Alberta and Canadian governments.

"It's tangential," explained Susan Smitten, director of communications for Woodward & Company, the law firm handling the First Nations' cases.

While Friday is the deadline for the First Nations, the federal government had 60 days after the filing.

"We're expecting a court date as early as January," said Smitten. "These things move along much more quickly."

In July, the three First Nation communities as well as the Chipewyan Prairie Dene First Nation sent a "strongly worded letter" to Prentice and the attorney general via Woodward & Company.

The 14-page document included information from a report released that month by Stan Boutin, described as a leading caribou expert at the University of Alberta. It was Boutin's report that prompted the reaction from the First Nation communities.

His report said woodland caribou are in steep decline in the area because of the cumulative effects of rampant industrial development on caribou habitat, particularly by the oil and gas industry.

Boutin's report said the East Side Athabasca River herd has declined by 71% since 1996 and the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range herd has declined 74% since 1998.

The report cautioned this level of decline is dramatic and is a strong signal that drastic immediate management action is required to keep caribou from disappearing completely in the Alberta traditional territory of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation which includes much of the oilsands region. His recommendations include habitat restoration and full protection of remaining caribou ranges in northeastern Alberta.

In the letter to Prentice, Jack Woodward, Beaver Lake counsel, charges that Prentice and his ministry have known about the woodland caribou's precipitous decline in northeastern Alberta for several years, but to date, has done nothing to protect woodland caribou or their habitat.

All woodland caribou in Alberta were listed as threatened under the Species at Risk Act when it first came into force in 2002. The federal environment minister had a clear statutory duty under that act to prepare a recovery strategy for woodland caribou, he added.

There is still no national recovery strategy for woodland caribou, more than three years after the expiry of the mandatory deadline imposed by SARA — June 2007.

Woodland's letter gave the federal government until Aug. 31 to comply with its mandatory statutory duties. That deadline wasn't met, hence the Sept. 8 filing.

Meanwhile, Woodward was interviewed at length for a special two-hour episode of The Nature of Things scheduled for 8 p.m. Dec. 2 on the CBC, said Smitten. The date coincides with the one-year anniversary of Copenhagen 15.

The show focuses on the downstream effects of the oilsands development and Woodward was interviewed at length for the documentary in regards to the main constitutional challenge.

That challenge came about after the BLFN watched their traditional hunting, trapping and fishing lands rapidly being destroyed by the oil and gas industry, according to Woodward & Company information.

Legal papers filed in the Edmonton Registry by Woodward claim that Alberta and Canada have infringed Beaver Lake's treaty rights by approving oil and gas and other developments throughout the First Nation's core traditional territory.

Rather than file a statement of defence, Smitten said Alberta and Canadian governments have filed a motion to strike.

A court date to hear that motion is currently set for Dec. 6 to 12 in Federal Court in Edmonton.


carol.christian@fortmcmurraytoday.com

 

Does Ottawa Agree With Mr. Cobb and Mr. Hawes? - TNG News Release

Thursday Oct 07, 2010
 

TNG logo
NEWS RELEASE

Fish Lake Decision will Reveal True Nature of Harper Government

Williams Lake: Thursday October 7: The Tsilhqot’in Nation today called on the federal government to distance itself from the offensive remarks and warnings of violence by Williams Lake Chamber of Commerce president Walter Cobb - the latest in a growing number of verbal attacks coming from some prominent supporters of the proposed Prosperity Mine.

“How the federal government rules on the fate of Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) will reveal a lot about its true character, the positions it agrees with, and its respect for the law, the environment and its constitutional duties to First Nations,” said Tribal Chair Chief Joe Alphonse of Tl’etinqox-T’in.

Describing the choice for the federal government, Marilyn Baptiste, Chief of the Tsilhqot’in People of Xeni said: “We have the CEAA review panel report’s damning findings about this project, the precedents for rejecting projects based on such reports, the negative findings over 15 years from DFO, the support of First Nations, environmental groups, rights groups and individuals from across Canada, many concerned citizens in Williams Lake, and even the BC government’s own previous rulings on the need to protect this environment and First Nations rights from destructive projects.

“On the other hand we have an alliance between the BC government and Taseko that seeks to turn these beautiful precious lands and waters into a 35 sq km wasteland, because with current technology the company says the only way to make a profit from the low grade ore is to destroy everything. Apparently its arguments are so poor that it must result to having mine supporters like Mr. Cobb and Junior Mines Minister Randy Hawes trying to champion the mine by making derogatory – even racist – comments about First Nations and issuing statements that some extremists might see as condoning violence against us,” said Chief Percy Guichon of the Tsilhqot’in People of Tsi Deldel.

The TNG has stated it is ready to defend its lands against the company should an unjust ruling be made, but its position would be aimed at preventing Taseko Mines and the BC government from proceeding with work – especially while major court cases regarding First Nations rights are still before the courts. Taking action against the people of Williams Lake has never been a consideration.

“On the other hand, prominent mine champions Mr. Cobb and Mr. Hawes and like-minded proponents who appear to be working closely with the company, are treating this as a personal battle against First Nations and trying to incite non-aboriginal people with disgraceful insults about our people and by raising the prospect of violence against us and not condemning it,” said Chief Marilyn Baptiste.

The TNG has tried to ignore Mr. Cobb’s attacks in the past – even though he heads the Chamber of Commerce, and is a former Liberal MLA and so he has connections – because the TNG knows that he does not represent the majority view in Williams Lake. “But his latest statements, made on camera in front of the Williams Lake Chamber of Commerce and repeated again for print media, and those of some other leading campaigners for the mine, can no longer be ignored,” said Chief Joe Alphonse.

“When combined with similar comments by Junior Mines Minister Randy Hawes and others, it is clear that some of those most closely identified as working with Taseko Mines to promote this project have a derogatory view of First Nations and consider them to be an obstacle to be removed, not people with rights that need to be addressed.”

Chief Percy Guichon of the Tsilhqot’in People of Tsi Deldel said: “We believe most people realize that we oppose the mine because it would destroy pristine wilderness environment, a sacred and richly populated fishing lake, Teztan Biny (Fish Lake), and a way of life for our people who have lived here for countless generations, and not because we do not want work, as Mr. Cobb has stated, or because we do not care for our children, as Mr. Hawes has stated.

“But there may be some who see this total disregard for First Nations rights, cultures and environment based values and these comments about violence as a justification against First Nations should the mine be rejected.”

In a video-taped interview with APTN, which aired on Oct. 4, Mr. Cobb stated: “I have heard some pretty serious things that might take place if this project does not go ahead – I don’t want to even suggest that these things might happen. Do I understand where this is coming from? Yes. It is frustration.”

A few weeks earlier at a meeting with the Chamber, Junior Mines Minister Hawes made a similar statement and was quoted in a local paper as saying: “If this mine doesn’t go, there are going to be some very severe racial problems because a lot of the people, who are counting on this mine and are looking at it for hope, are going to blame the aboriginal community.”

Mr. Cobb and Mr. Hawes are not the only ones who have tried to dismiss the dire findings of serious and irreparable harm by the CEAA review panel and belittle First Nations and others who oppose this proposed mine, which the federal Department of fisheries and Oceans has warned since 1995 would be unacceptable if it killed Teztan Biny.

Earlier this summer, Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resource minister described the lake that is sacred to the Tsilhqot’in, is one of the top ten catch-and-release fishing lakes in BC, and has been featured on BC tourism brochures as “shallow,” “mucky” and a ‘pothole.” He is also on record dismissing those who fight to save the land and water as “eco-fascists.”

Premier Gordon Campbell has so far refused to distance himself from such comments. In a speech Oct, 1 to the Union of BC Municipalities, Mr. Campbell abandoned all pretence of caring about his once much vaunted New Relationship with First Nations and simply delivered the company line on this proposal and demanded Ottawa approve it.

Attached: Chronology of some of the comments from Mr. Hawes, Cobb and others in promoting this mine.

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Media Inquiries: Chief Joe Alphonse, Tribal Chairman, Tsilhqot’in National Government: (250) 305-8282 or (250) 394-4212.
Chief Percy Guichon, Tsi Deldel: (250) 267-2507 or (250) 481-1163 ext.17

Chronology - Sample of statements by prominent mining champions in recent months:

1. Reported by the Canadian Press, June 16, 2010: Junior Mines Minister Randy Hawes’s response to an independent study by renowned Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic, which identified needed reforms to a mining system stacked against first nations in BC. “To be blunt, I think the report is hogwash,” said Mr. Hawes, questioning why Harvard doesn't look in its own backyard or concentrate elsewhere in the world where there are egregious impacts on indigenous people....While he noted that some First Nations reject mining for a more traditional lifestyle, he also said traditional ways are linked to lower birth weights, higher birth rate deaths and lower life spans.

2. Taseko Mines Ltd. President and CEO Russell Hallbauer. July 6 call with investment analysts on future of prosperity project. In response to question about First Nations rights issues and ramifications. “That’s the government’s problem.”

3. BC’s Minister of Mines, Energy and Petroleum Bill Bennett, quoted in July 8 Globe and Mail story on the Prosperity mine proposal by Justine Hunter, gives his view of Fish Lake, which is sacred to First Nations, is one BC’s top ten catch-and -release fishing areas, and was featured on BC tourism brochures. “This is a tiny little pothole of a lake...a shallow, mucky lake with too many small rainbows in it.”

4. Minister Bennett’s view of environmentalists: July 12, Globe and Mail, report by Pat Brethour: “We either stand strong together against the loss of the Flathead Valley to the eco facists , or we will lose the Flathead. I am there, if you are there,” he (Bennett) writes in an e-mail sent Monday and obtained by The Globe and Mail.

5. Junior Mines Minster Hawes, at Aug. 26 meeting. 100 Mile House Free Press Aug. 31: “I don’t understand why they would put [Fish Lake] ahead of their future for their kids.” And: “As the mayor of Williams Lake said, if this mine doesn’t go, there are going to be some very severe racial problems because a lot of the people, who are counting on this mine and are looking at it for hope, are going to blame the aboriginal community.”

7. Williams Lake Mayor Kerry Cook disputes Hawes’ comments: 100 Mile House Free Press. Sept. 14: “Williams Lake council has clearly stated our support for this project and we understand there are groups and individuals who do not agree with our position. However, this is not, and should not be construed to be a racial issue.”

7. Walter Cobb: APTN Oct. 4: Evening News. On tape: “They don’t want to work…Some of those leaders seem to not want their people to work or prosper on the reserve.” And: “If this mine doesn’t go, there are going to be some very severe racial problems because a lot of the people, who are counting on this mine and are looking at it for hope, are going to blame the aboriginal community.”

Walter Cobb: Vancouver Province Oct. 5: Cobb said he stands by similar remarks he made to the Aboriginal Peoples’ Television Network on Monday. “That’s exactly what I meant,” Cobb told The Province Tuesday....Cobb said that in his view, First Nations “want the resources, they want the welfare, but they don’t want to have to pay for them.”

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Tensions rising over Prosperity - APTN News

Wednesday Oct 06, 2010
  By Rob Smith
APTN National News

Inflammatory remarks from a respected Williams Lake, B.C.,businessman highlight the growing tension between the town’s people and the Tsilhqot’in nation which opposes a gold and copper mine that would drain sacred Fish Lake.

Walter Cobb, president of the Williams Lake Chamber of Commerce, accused the Tsilhqot’in of standing in the way of progress.

“They don’t want to work…Some of those leaders seem to not want their people to work or prosper on the reserve,” said Cobb. “I don’t have any idea what the rational is.”

Cobb warns there will be a backlash if Taseko Mines Ltd.’s Prosperity gold and copper project is stopped.

The federal cabinet will ultimately decide the project’s fate and a decision is expected at any time.

Click here to view the television report.



 

BBC News - Natives fight to protect Canada's tar sands

Wednesday Oct 06, 2010
 
UK tour - Chief Al at Tarnished Earth
Indigenous communities hoping to prevent oil companies from further fuel exploration on Canada's tar sands have brought their campaign to the United Kingdom.

They say the oil industry is threatening the survival of ancient habitats, damaging woodland and wildlife.

Russell Trott reports.

VIDEO REPORT: Natives fight to protect Canada's tar sands

The report includes good clips from Beaver Lake Cree Nation Chief Al Lameman and Woodward and Company LLP lawyer Jack Woodward.

 

Premier Campbell’s Pitch for Mine as sign of Desperation - TNG Press Release

Tuesday Oct 05, 2010
 
TNG logo
PRESS RELEASE

For Immediate Release


Williams Lake. Oct. 5, 2010: Premier Gordon Campbell’s demand at speech to BC municipalities that the federal government approve the proposed Prosperity mine is more proof that he has abandoned all interest in doing what is right and may be desperate to save his political future, Chief Joe Alphonse, Tribal Chairman of the Tsilhqot’in National Government said today.

“It is increasingly easy to believe that the New Relationship that once gave BC First Nations so much hope was merely a ploy by Premier Gordon Campbell to buy peace for the 2010 Winter Olympics,” said Chief Marilyn Baptiste, Tsilhqot’in people of Xeni Gwet’in. “Certainly his speech Friday night demonstrated a total abandonment of any recognition of First Nations Rights and of any desire to work with them to find a path forward to create a sustainable mining industry in BC.”

“If Premier Campbell is now acting out of a desperate bid to generate a provincial-federal battle that will divert public attention from the HST issue and growing recall efforts, regardless of the harm and injustices that could result, then our disappointment in him is even more intense,” said Chief Percy Guichon, Tsi Deldel.

In his speech Friday, the Premier promoted the fallacy that this specific mine project is the way forward for mining in BC. In doing so he tacitly endorsed the view that BC must approve any mine, no matter how destructive of the environment and no matter how abusive of First Nations rights and culture.

“It was in effect an endorsement of the way of the past, where companies came in to destroy what they wanted to get at whatever they wanted, with the government’s blessing,” said Chief Frances Laceese, Tl’esqox.

As the premier noted, BC is indeed so rich in mineral resources. So why has this government chosen as its poster child a project that involved such low-grade copper and gold deposits that only the company feels it is profitable to access it is to destroy our sacred lakes and ecosystem and 35 sq km of some of the most pristine and beautiful wilderness area in BC with a self-sustaining wild rainbow trout fishery that this same BC government promotes as one of the top 10 fishing spots in BC.

“Even many in the mining industry privately question why the BC government would have chosen such a clearly incendiary project to champion. Could it really be that political donation lines to the BC party have played a role in this?” said Chief Marilyn Baptiste.

It defies logic that this premier, who in the past has claimed to understand the issues facing First Nations and the need to resolve them in BC, would not be able to recognize that this project is in fact the last one his government should be approving.

“His government’s rubberstamping of this mine proposal was, to be blunt, a joke. Either it had abandoned all of its previous principles, which led it to deny a small lodge expansion in this same area to save the environment and respect First Nations rights, or it only rejected that lodge expansion to make life easier down the road Taseko Mines to come in and destroy the area,” said Chief Percy Guichon.

The First Nations of BC and Canada have pledged their support to the Tsilhqot’in Nation to fight this mine should federal approval be given. A green light from Ottawa would ensure that all trust and cooperation is lost and all the good work being done by responsible companies to work with first nations to develop responsible projects will be set back. This so called “Prosperity” proposal is not only a poorly named insult to First Nations, but also to all mining companies who believe we need to find a better way forward.

BC and Taseko mines were informed as far back 1995 by top federal fisheries and Oceans officials that any proposal that would kill of Teztan Biny is unacceptable and something that could never be approved, DFO even advised BC and the company to stop wasting time and money and only come back if they had a proposal that would not destroy this lake and its ecosystem.

“Far from now endorsing the BC government’s untenable actions and decision, the federal cabinet is duty bound to distance itself from them and to exercise its obligations to reject this specific proposal,” said Chief Francis Laceese. Indeed the findings of the CEAA panel report now place a clear constitutional duty on the federal government to protect our rights by rejecting this project.

“It certainly is not the federal government’s job to base its decision on whether or not it will help Gordon Campbell,” said Chief Joe Alphonse.

“ Its duty is to enforce the constitutional, legal and moral obligations that Premier Campbell is urging it to ignore, and to avert the confrontation and major setback to the future of mining that would accompany approval of this project: a project that cannot and will never be accepted by the Tsilhqot’in and first Nations everywhere,” said Chief Joe Alphonse.

To view a video of our lake, visit: http://www.raventrust.com/projects/fishlaketeztanbiny/video-bluegold.html
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Media Inquiries:
Chief Joe Alphonse, Tribal Chairman, Tsilhqot’in National Government: (250) 305-8282 or (250) 394-4212
Chief Marilyn Baptiste, Xeni Gwet’in First Nations Government: (250) 267-1401 or (250) 394-7023 ext. 202




 

TNG NEWS RELEASE: Does Taseko Mines Ltd. have a deal with Ottawa to approve mine?

Tuesday Sep 28, 2010
  TNG logo

Williams Lake, BC. Tuesday Sept. 28:  Taseko Mines Ltd continues to act like federal approval of its demonstrably unacceptable Prosperity mine project is a done deal. It is holding a jobs seminar for the proposed mine in Williams Lake today, and yesterday announced the appointment of a new VP of operations who it says will oversee the operation of a mine that should have no chance of being approved.

Both actions presume the mine is going ahead, even though the CEAA review panel, and indeed the federal government’s own Department of Fisheries and Ocean, have left the federal Cabinet with no constitutional, legal or moral choice but to reject the mine.

The company’s announcement yesterday of its appointment of David Rouleau as Vice President of Operations states that he “will be responsible for overseeing all operational aspects of the Gibraltar Mine as well as the development and ultimate operation of the Prosperity Mine.”

This appointment also raises further questions regarding the relationship between the company and the BC Liberals, and the possible influence this might have had on the BC government, which approved the proposed mine despite the fact that it clearly violates its own previous opposition to development in the area on environmental and First Nations rights grounds.

Mr. Rouleau spent 17 years with Teck Cominco in various mine operations and engineering roles. He was also “a key member of Canadian Natural Resources senior management team developing the $10 billion Horizon Oil Sands Project in Fort McMurray, Alberta.”

As the Tsilhqot’in National Government revealed last week, Elections BC records show that one of Taseko Mine Ltd’s directors, Richard Mundie, has powerful ties to the party, having signed off on $440,000 in donations to the BC Liberals from Teck Cominco between 2005 and 2009 when he was an officer with that company.

Taseko Mines Ltd also suddenly began funding the BC Liberal Party as the province moved towards an environmental review of its Prosperity mine proposal, pumped $30,150 into BC Liberals coffers over a 12 month period starting in late 2008 as the province geared up for an election and moved towards proceeding with an environmental assessment of the proposed mine.

“We now have more reason to wonder if it is funding ties to the BC Liberals that explains why the BC government would become such a vocal champion of a proposed mine that would kill our lakes, rivers, trees, fish and wildlife, and our Tsilhqot’in rights, culture and way of life,” said Xeni Gwet’in Chief Marilyn Baptiste of the Tsilhqot’in National Government.

“What still has us puzzled is what hold the company thinks it has over the federal government that would allow it to act as if approval from Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Cabinet is a foregone conclusion?”

As Freedom of Information documents released by the TNG last week show, the Province and Taseko Mines and were told 15 years ago to look for alternatives because killing Teztan Biny could never be approved federally. The CEAA review panel report and continuing objections by DFO make it clear the project cannot receive federal approval now.

“Yet Taseko Mines continues to talk and act as if it knows something the rest of us do not,” said TNG Tribal Chair Chief Joe Alphonse. “Should the federal government abandon its duties and actually give Taseko the green light for this mine, we will certainly be demanding an inquiry into what influences were used to convince the federal cabinet to make such an unsupportable ruling.”

Political contributions data from Elections BC’s website, along with links to the site’s relevant pages, can be found at www.fnwarm.com. Copies of letters from the Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans rejecting the proposed mine as far back as 1995 can also be found here.
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For more information: Chief Marilyn Baptiste 250-394-7023
TNG Tribal Chair Chief Joe Alphonse 250-394-4212


 

TNG Media Release: Political contributions, DFO letters, raise more questions about BC’s approval of bad mine

Friday Sep 24, 2010
 
NEWS RELEASE

Williams Lake, BC. Fri. Sept, 24: Political contribution records show that Taseko Mines Ltd suddenly began funding the BC Liberal Party as the province moved towards an environmental review of its Prosperity mine proposal.

The company pumped $30,150 into BC liberal coffers over a 12 month period starting in late 2008 as the province geared up for an election and moved towards proceeding with an environmental assessment of the proposed mine.

Records also show that one of Taseko Mine Ltd directors, Richard Mundie, has powerful ties to the party, having signed off on $440,000 in donations to the party from Teck Cominco between 2005 and 2009 when he was an officer with that company.

This information comes a week after it was discovered that the BC government was previously so protective of the Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) area – listed as one of the top ten fishing lakes in the Province – that it refused to allow a relatively minor 35-acre Lodge expansion, yet was later persuaded to accept and advocate for Taseko’s massive, destructive open-pit mine project.

New documents now show that the company and Province insisted on pressing ahead with the mine proposal despite being warned repeatedly – starting in 1995 – by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans that pursing the idea would be a waste of everyone’s time, because neither the DFO nor the minister of environment could approve the loss of this rare and fish-rich lake.

“This money trail helps explain why a government that previously ruled even a small lodge expansion too environmentally unacceptable is now using public funds to champion a company that wants to create an open pit mine with a 35 sq. km footprint that would kill our lake, streams, fish, wildlife, and our rights, culture and way of life,” said Yunesit'in Chief Ivor D. Meyers, Tsilhqot’in National Government.

Xeni Gwet’in Chief Marilyn Baptiste added: “We have always found it unfathomable that all the opposition to this mine over the years, culminating in the damning findings of the CEAA panel, has fallen on deaf ears with the BC government. Perhaps this shows that you have to pay big bucks to be heard.”

Contribution data from Elections BC’s website, along with links to the site’s relevant pages, can be found at www.fnwarm.com. Copies of letters from the Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans rejecting the proposed mine as far back as 1995 can also be found here.

The DFO letters show that the department – which has continued to object to the net losses that would still result from Taseko’s plan to build a small fake lake reservoir to replace Teztan Biny – declared the project out of bounds 15 years ago.

The department warned the company and Province that destroying the top class lake and fishery and not properly replacing that unique habitat was something that neither DFO nor the environment minister could ever permit, and advised them not to pursue it further.
“These letters show that it is not the opponents of this project that have wasted taxpayers and company investors dollars,” said Chief Baptiste.

“BC and Taseko were told 15 years ago to look for alternatives, and instead have spent the intervening time trying to circumvent the rules to kill our lake and lands – and they have had the nerve to publicly portray our First Nations and the many non aboriginals who have resisted their efforts as the unreasonable ones,” said Tl'esqox Chief Francis Laceese, Tsilhqot’in National Government.

“It is now clearer than ever that, as DFO warned 15 years ago, the Minister of Environment has no choice but to reject this mine.”
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For more information: Chief Marilyn Baptiste 250-394-7023 ext 202 / cell 250-267-1401
TNG Tribal Chair Chief Joe Alphonse 250-394-4212 ext 229 / cell 250-305-8282


 

Ottawa must not sell out Tsilhqot'in - Globe and Mail op-ed by Chief Marilyn Baptiste

Tuesday Sep 21, 2010
  Published Tuesday, September 21, 2010


What would you do if another country, many times more populous and powerful, decides that it wants Canada’s water and, after listening to all the reasons why it cannot not simply take it, announces that it is going to do exactly that?

Would you refuse to accept the country’s justification that its hundreds of millions of people desperately need the water to sustain their economy and that this outweighs any harm that would be done to the relatively small Canadian population that stands in the way? Would you expect your governments to resist? If your answers are yes, then you have an idea of the position of the Tsilhqot’in people.

The federal cabinet is expected to debate Tuesday a proposal for a copper-gold mine near Williams Lake, B.C. The mine would destroy the traditional lands and the sacred Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) of the Xeni Gwet’in and its sister Tsilhqot’in nations. The company behind the proposal, Taseko Mines Ltd., says the mine would generate $5-billion in economic activity over 20 years – a welcome prospect to the province and local towns hit hard by job losses. Taseko also says it plans to create an artificial lake that would eventually be home to the offspring of the 90,000 trout that would be killed when the company uses Fish Lake to store mine tailings.

Should the cabinet approve the proposed Prosperity Mine, our theoretical water-hungry foreign power could argue that taking what it wants from Canada would be no different than what Canada is doing to its own first nations. A “yes” vote would be a declaration that might is right and greed is paramount.

Our message has been clear: No amount of money could compensate for what this mine would do to our people and the land we treasure. We have played by the federal government’s rules to make our case, and now we expect it to do the same.

After 60 days of hearings during which witnesses overwhelmingly opposed the mine, a Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency Review Panel reported that the project would cause significant and irreparable harm to our rights, our future generations and the environment on which we depend. It also found that no proposed mitigation would address the harm that would be caused.

The report is too long to detail. Suffice it to say that federal government departments raised serious concerns, and aboriginal and environmental groups were 100 per cent opposed to the mine. We have since learned that the B.C. government previously turned down a small lodge expansion in the same area because it would have hurt the environment and aboriginal rights.

Taseko says no great harm would result from gouging out a 35-square-kilometre open-pit mine that would kill a lake, streams, wildlife, forests and our rights and way of life. Inexplicably, the B.C. government agreed with this patently ridiculous position. The federal government cannot make the same mistake. In fact, no cabinet has ever overridden a report by an environmental assessment review panel.

We are not against all mining, but we cannot allow this poster child for all that is wrong with the system to proceed. It would be a catalyst for confrontation, not co-operation.

The Assembly of First Nations notes that federal acceptance of the mine would expose the environmental-assessment process as useless and the government’s claims of respect for aboriginal culture as hollow. The AFN, the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, B.C.’s the First Nations Summit and others have pledged to help us defend against what we believe would be an unjust federal decision.

If the government can sell out the Tsilhqot’in in this case, it can sell out others too – and not just natives. Which is why, if denied justice, we will be forced to act. It is why first nations across the country see this as an issue of national importance. It is also why Canadians have a vested interest in seeing our rights and way of life protected.

Marilyn Baptiste is Chief of the Xeni Gwet’in of the Tsilhqot’in Nation and a founding member of British Columbia’s First Nations Women Advocating Responsible Mining.


 

Prosperity's propensity for problems - Globe and Mail

Friday Sep 10, 2010
  All sides are holding their breath, waiting for a decision from the federal government on a proposed mine

By John Ibbitson

From Friday's Globe and Mail Published on Thursday, Sep. 09, 2010 8:53PM EDT
Last updated on Thursday, Sep. 09, 2010 9:24PM EDT

The Harper government is receiving a report Friday that will confront it with one of the toughest political decisions since Stephen Harper became prime minister, over a proposed mine in British Columbia that would create jobs in an economically troubled area – but at the cost of damaging a pristine lake and the habitat of grizzly bears.

The Conservatives must decide whether to give the go-ahead to the proposed Prosperity mine, 125 kilometres southwest of Williams Lake. If it does, it will be overruling the federal Department of the Environment’s own environmental impact study, which concluded in July that the mine would inflict serious harm. This would be the first time a federal government has ignored such a ruling.

The leaders of the Tsilhqot’in (pronounced and sometimes spelled Chilcotin) first nation, who claim the area as their own, say they will go to any length to stop the mine.

“We don’t condone” violence, said tribal chairman Joe Alphonse. “But as the leadership of the Tsilhqot’in nation, we don’t control all of our members.”

If the government says no to the mine, it could estrange Mr. Harper from Premier Gordon Campbell, infuriate the government’s own B.C. MPs and foment Western anger at central Canada.

“I’m very much afraid there’s a bunch of Toronto MPs, etc. that don’t get the economics and what the mine means to this area,” Randy Hawes, B.C.’s Minister of State for Mining, said recently.

Either way, the decision is bound to heighten tension between natives and non-natives in the region.

“If this mine doesn’t go, there are going to be some very severe racial problems because a lot of the people who are counting on this mine, and are looking at it for hope, are going to blame the aboriginal community,” Mr. Hawes said.

Taseko Mines Ltd. wants to create an open-pit copper and gold mine that would cover 35 kilometres in the Cariboo-Chilcotin Regional District. Over the 20 years of its existence, the mine would inject $5-billion in economic activity and $30-million a year in taxes into a region whose forest industry has been devastated by the pine beetle infestation and the downturn in the lumber industry.

“The area is in absolute, desperate need of an economic lifesaver,” said Dick Harris, the area’s Conservative MP, “and if ever there was one, it was this mine,” which would create 375 direct and 600 indirect jobs annually.

Mr. Harris is also the chair the Conservative B.C. caucus, and reports that “I haven’t talked to anybody in my caucus who has had a disparaging word about the mine.”

The B.C. government is fully behind the mine. Its own environmental assessment concluded that the economic gains to the region outweighed the environmental costs.

But federal permits are also required, And a review panel established by Environment Minister Jim Prentice concluded the mine would produce “high magnitude, long-term and irreversible” damage.

Fish Lake, which the B.C. government has featured in photographs in tourism materials, would have to be drained. The lake sustains a population of 90,000 rainbow trout, which is an important supplemental food source for the Tsilhqot’in.

Taseko has proposed creating and stocking an artificial Prosperity Lake. The lake would need to be continually restocked, however, since such lakes rarely develop self-sustaining fish populations.

The review panel also concluded that the mine would do serious damage to the habitat of the region’s grizzly bear population, which the provincial government has classified as “threatened.”

The recommendation to cabinet from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is expected Friday though what that recommendation is remains unknown. The earliest cabinet could take up the question is Tuesday.

If cabinet does approve the licences needed to start work on the mine, the Tsilhqot’in will seek a court injunction to stop the mine from proceeding. Failing that, they are prepared to engage in peaceful civil disobedience – though, as Mr. Alphonse warns, “things could escalate” on either side.

The Prosperity mine may bring prosperity, but it also brings the very worst sorts of divisions: of the West against the rest; native against non-native; environmentalists against entrepreneurs.

Those divisions will only become more inflamed, whatever the government decides.



Key elements in the conclusions of the July ruling by the federal environmental panel reviewing the Prosperity mine project:

* Taseko Mines’ decision that an open-pit mine is the only feasible alternative is “reasonable.”
* The project would not have a “significant adverse effect” on surface water quality in the area, soil, old-growth forest, mule deer, moose, emissions of particulate matter, trapping, the forest industry, grassland ecosystems or human health.
* The project would have a “significant adverse effect” on fish and fish habitat in the Teztan Yeqox (Fish Creek) watershed, on the use of meadows within the watershed due to loss of grazing lands, and (along with current and foreseen forestry activities) would have a significant adverse cumulative effect on the South Chilcotin grizzly bear population.
* The project would also have a “significant adverse effect” on established aboriginal fishing and other rights in the area, on the Tsilhqot’in Nation’s current use of lands and resources for traditional purposes, on the Tsilhqot’in Nation’s cultural heritage resources, and on the aboriginal title that could be granted to the Esketemc (Alkali Lake Band) and the Stswecem’c/Xgat’tem (Canoe Creek Band).




 

Alberta First Nations press Ottawa over caribou depletion - Edmonton Journal

Thursday Sep 09, 2010
  Native groups seek recovery strategy in court

By Elise Stolte

woodland caribouEDMONTON — Three Alberta First Nations are taking the federal government to court to prevent the Alberta's caribou from going "the way of the buffalo."

Using the federal Species At Risk Act, the First Nations hope to force Ottawa to step into what's normally provincial jurisdiction and limit industry access to caribou habitat.

"Without the forests, these animals have very little hope, in fact no hope, of surviving," said Beaver Lake Cree Chief Al Lameman after lawyers filed with the federal court Wednesday.

"We're not going to let it go. Myself, I'm not going to let it go. I don't want to see this noble animal go the way of the buffalo."

Two caribou herds live in the area the Beaver Lake Cree claim as their traditional territory, an area the size of Switzerland bordering Saskatchewan in the centre of the province.

Lawyers expect to call University of Alberta biologist Stan Boutin as an expert witness. In a study published July 5, he found the size of each herd has fallen dramatically in the past 14 years and now just 175 to 275 animals remain.

If trends continue, he said, the number of caribou per herd will fall below 50 by 2030 and below 10 by 2046, which is too small to survive long. His report blames industrial activity for the decline because new roads, pipelines and seismic lines make the area less hospitable to caribou and encourage the free movement of predators, such as wolves.

Two environmental groups, the Pembina Institute and the Alberta Wilderness Association, also filed a parallel lawsuit in support of the First Nations on Wednesday. Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and the Enoch Cree from just outside Edmonton co-signed the First Nations application with the Beaver Lake Cree. It's funded by the Manchester-based investment group Co-operative Financial Services.


Read more: Alberta First Nations threaten legal action
Other similar news reports:

CBC - First Nations take Ottawa to court over caribou
CP - Court challenge launched to halt new oilsands development on caribou land
Global TV - Alberta First Nations groups taking legal action over threatened caribou




 

First Nations in BC fight against mine on hunting grounds - Digital Journal

Thursday Sep 09, 2010
  fishlake_aerial_2

First Nations are concerned that they will face aggression if they defend Tsilhqot'in rights, lands and waters in BC if the federal government does not stop the proposed Prosperity Mine.


By KJ Mullins

British Columbia's junior Minister of Mines, Randy Hawes was quoted saying that "no society will tolerate threats of violence." That lead Chief Percy Guichon of Tsi Deldel to say "What is not acceptable to Canadian society today is the destruction of a traditional and cultural way of life for the sake of profits." Chief Ivor D. Myers of Yunesit'in has said, "We are facing similar treatment by the government and by Taseko Mines Ltd. as indigenous groups in underdeveloped countries."

An elder of the Xeni Gwet'in community has said that she would be at the location in her wheelchair with a shotgun if the mine is not stopped from proceeding.

"If anyone has reason to fear aggression it is our people," said Chief Marilyn Baptiste of Xeni Gwet'in First Nations Government in a press release. "It is the BC Government and Taseko Mines Ltd. that are threatening our livelihood, health, environment and our culture. We are merely standing up for ourselves."

The British Columbia Supreme Court has cases ongoing over the mine currently. The company has stated that once it had all its government permits that they will go forward and that any issues with First Nations title to the land would be the problem of the government.

"Given the lengths to which both the province and the company have gone to promote this mine and to minimize the objections of our First Nations, the environmental community and the CEAA review panel, we dread to think what they will do to force their way onto our land should the federal government give them the green light to do so," said Chief Baptiste.

The land that is at the center of the dispute has been an Aboriginal hunting and trapping ground. The company plans to drain the Fish Lake and fill it with waste rock. The 80,000 trout that are now in the lake would be moved to a reservoir.

First Nations allege that if the mine goes forth the company will leave estimated 700,000,000 tons of tailings and waste materials, including arsenic, mercury, lead, cadmium and other toxic metals. Those toxins will damage the ecosystem for the animals that live in the area. This includes North America's larges wild salmon run.



 

First Nations launch legal challenge to force government to protect woodland caribou

Wednesday Sep 08, 2010
 
  MEDIA RELEASE

For immediate release

First Nations launch legal challenge to force government to protect woodland caribou; judicial review demands halt to new tar sands developments

Sept. 8, 2010, Edmonton, Alberta - Some First Nations in north-eastern Alberta have initiated court proceedings to force the federal government to uphold its legal duty to protect the habitat of the woodland caribou, which are now a threatened species. This legal fight to protect Alberta’s remaining caribou populations from regional extinction is the latest response to the expanding tar sands developments.

The judicial review application filed today in the Edmonton Federal Court offices by the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, Beaver Lake Cree Nation and Enoch Cree Nation is asking the court to force Canada’s environment minister to prepare a recovery strategy for woodland caribou and to recommend that Cabinet make an emergency order to protect woodland caribou in north-eastern Alberta under the Species at Risk Act (SARA).

Jack Woodward, legal counsel for the applicants, said: “The idea is to protect remaining caribou habitat and introduce a moratorium, to be in effect immediately, on all new developments within those areas when the caribou herds are known to be threatened. Under SARA, the government was required to put a recovery plan in place to protect the animals by 2007 and has failed in its obligation to do that.”

The judicial review is using data from a study completed by Dr. Stan Boutin of the University of Alberta. Dr. Boutin’s report looked specifically at the two caribou herds within the Beaver Lake Cree Nation’s traditional territories and found the herd populations have plummeted by more than 70 per cent in just 12 years. Dr. Boutin concluded that the herds face extirpation by 2025 without immediate habitat protection.

Chief Al Lameman of Beaver Lake Cree Nation said: “It is difficult for me to express the anger I feel at the loss of this noble animal in our territory. Our traditional land is dwindling. We need habitat for our animals like the caribou to ensure there is a healthy surplus. These animals sustain us and as they die our future becomes uncertain. We must act now to take care of Mother Earth.”

Chief Allan Adam of Athabasca Chipewyan said: “We launched this legal action because we are demanding the government call an immediate halt to the destruction of our lands, the land that sustains the caribou. We want a moratorium on all new development within the ranges of the remaining woodland caribou in north east Alberta.”
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Contact:
Ron Lameman, Beaver Lake Cree Nation
780.520.1876

Chief Allan Adam, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation
(780) 697-3730

Sean Nixon or Jack Woodward
Woodward and Company
250.383.2356


 

Groups call on the federal cabinet to save Fish Lake

Friday Sep 03, 2010
 

MEDIA RELEASE
For Immediate Release
September 3, 2010

Ottawa - The Council of Canadians and MiningWatch Canada are calling on the federal cabinet to reject a proposed open-pit gold and copper mine which would destroy a pristine lake and contaminate nearby bodies of water.

The Harper government is expected to decide on the fate of Fish Lake in British Columbia as soon as next Friday.

On Tuesday September 7 at 11 am, the groups will deliver a petition with more than 10,000 signatures from across the country to the federal government in Ottawa.

"Lakes and rivers should not be used as private garbage dumps for mining companies," says Maude Barlow, chairperson of the Council of Canadians.

The Tsilhqot'in National Government, backed by the Assembly of First Nations, opposes the destruction of Fish Lake, which is of profound cultural and spiritual significance to its people. It has said that if the federal cabinet does not listen to its own federal review panel which found that the mine would have 'significant adverse environmental effects', it will continue to take action to protect the lake, including blocking the access roads to the lake.

"We will stand shoulder to shoulder with the Tsilhqot'in to protect this lake," vows Barlow. "The federal government would be wise to heed the federal review panel findings and shut down this mine proposal entirely or it will face huge resistance in British Columbia and across Canada."

"Taseko's proposal to use natural bodies of water as tailings ponds is permitted by a loophole in the Fisheries Act called Schedule 2," says Ramsey Hart of MiningWatch. "Once placed on Schedule 2, lakes and rivers lose the protections normally required under federal law."

The federal review panel's recommendations serve to strengthen a legal challenge against Schedule 2, which argues that it is illegal for the federal government to allow the dumping of mining waste into Canadian lakes and rivers. The case is expected to be heard by the Federal Court this fall.

"Canada is one of the few countries in the world where mining companies are allowed to dump their tailings directly into lakes and rivers," says Meera Karunananthan, water campaigner for the Council of Canadians. "Schedule 2 remains a threat to all lakes in Canada and must be eliminated. In the meantime, the cabinet must do the right thing and save Fish Lake from destruction."
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For further information, contact:

Dylan Penner, Media Officer Council of Canadians, 613-795-8685, dpenner@canadians.org and see: www.canadians.org/TIA


 

Tsilhqot'in National Government: First Nations demand Prosperity Mine be rejected

Thursday Sep 02, 2010
 
TNG logo
PRESS RELEASE
For Immediate Release:

FIRST NATIONS UNITED IN DEMANDING PROSPERITY MINE PROPOSAL BE REJECTED

Ottawa. Thursday Sept. 2. 2010: National, regional and local BC First Nations Chiefs today delivered a clear and unequivocal message to the federal government at the Ottawa National Press: The proposed Prosperity mine in BC cannot be allowed to proceed.

If the federal government – whose decision could be announced as early as Sept. 10 – abandons its duty to reject this project, First Nations across BC and Canada will unite to defend against the project proceeding.

Tsilhqot’in National Government chiefs, whose members’ traditional lands would be impacted and whose sacred waters at Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) would be turned into a toxic tailing pond by the proposed mine, were today joined by the BC Assembly of First Nations’ Regional Chief Jody Wilson-Raybould, Union of BC Indian Chiefs Grand Chief Stewart Phillip and BC First Nations Summit Grand Chief Ed John at a news conference in Ottawa.

“There are no options open to the federal Government – it must respect the findings of significant and irreparable harm to the environment and First Nations rights and culture that were delivered in the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency’s review Panel Report 2010,” said Chief Marilyn Baptiste, of Xeni Gwet’in.

“The CEAA report leaves the government legally, constitutionally and morally bound to reject this proposal,” said Chief Ivor D. Myers, of the Yunesit’in Government. “Every community member expressed their opposition to the mine in the panel hearings and we as Chiefs have an inherent sacred duty to protect the lands that we survive off of and our sacred burial grounds that would be desecrated.”

Chief Percy Guichon, of Tsi Deldel (Alexis Creek First Nation) said: “The TNG, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, the BC First Nations Summit, the BC First Nations Leadership Council, the national assembly of first nations, the BC AFN and other First Nations groups, bands and concerned Canadians have all made their united opposition to this mine crystal clear since before the CEAA panel delivered its report.”

The Chiefs were in Ottawa today to deliver the message publicly after having had requests for a meeting with Environment Minister Jim Prentice ignored for nearly two months. Letters to other minister and all members of the BC federal Conservative caucus have also gone unanswered.

The post- CEAA consultation period ends today (Sept. 2). Under the terms of reference for the CEAA panel review, the government agreed to deliver a decision 70 days after the report was public on July 2, which would make Sept. 10 the decision deadline.

The TNG wrote to Minister Prentice in early June to raise a number of issues, including its desire for assurances that the government had not predetermined the mine would go ahead regardless of the CEAA panel review findings.

Taseko Mines Ltd., the proponent company, has been assuring investors that the mine will proceed and that approval will be granted rapidly. This has raised concerns that the company seems to have no question that its mine will be approved.

“We are disappointed that Minister Prentice has not responded to our request, and that other ministers and members of the BC federal caucus have also failed to respond to letters that we have sent to them,” said Chief Baptiste.
“This certainly has done nothing to address the perception that the federal Government may all along have intended to approve regardless of the findings by the CEAA review panel.”

The CEAA panel report found that the creation of the mine and the resulting killing of the pristine, beautiful and sacred Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) would irreversibly impose serious harm on the environment, fish and wildlife and on First Nations rights, lives, culture and spirituality. It found that the proposal does not meet standards required under federal fisheries and navigable waters rules. The panel also stated it did not believe any proposed mitigation measure would address this harm.

“We can only hope the federal government was not so rash as to issue any illicit advance assurances to the company or the provincial government that this mine would be given the green light, because the findings mean there is now a clear duty on Ottawa to honour both its constitutional duty to protect the rights of First Nations and its responsibility under Canada’s environmental assessment laws and reject this mine,” said Chief Baptiste.

Grand Chief Ed John of the BC First Nations Summit said: “The federal government must respect the findings of its own review panel and reject the proposed Prosperity Mine project. Any federal approval for this project would only confirm First Nations’ concerns about the legitimacy of the environmental assessment process. It would also clearly demonstrate that this government does not have any regard for First Nations title, rights, and culture, despite their recent apology for similar behaviour through the residential school system. This clearly demonstrates the need for the Government of Canada to fully and meaningfully adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which sets out clear standards for upholding the survival, dignity and well-being of Indigenous peoples.”

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs said: “No one should underestimate the expectations of First Nations that the government act honourably and reject this mine, or their resolve to defend these lands and waters in the face of unjust decisions.

“Approving this mine would serve as a catalyst that would trigger a volatile and protracted confrontation and would set back the good work that is occurring between other First Nations and forward-thinking companies to develop meaningful partnerships – in the absence of resolved title and rights in BC - to look for responsible and sustainable projects,” said Grand Chief Phillip. “It would also undermine any effort to build better relationships with First Nations across Canada.”

To view a video of our lake, visit: http://www.raventrust.com/projects/fishlaketeztanbiny/video-bluegold.html
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Media Inquiries: Marilyn Baptiste, Chief Xeni Gwet’in : (613) 851-2151 or (250) 267-1401



 

Enviro groups ask feds to protect AB caribou - Edmonton Journal

Tuesday Aug 17, 2010
 




EDMONTON — Three Alberta environmental groups have joined a First Nations effort calling on the federal environment minister to protect boreal caribou herds in the northeastern area of the province.

In a detailed, 13-page letter sent Tuesday to Environment Minister Jim Prentice, Ecojustice outlined the legal arguments compelling the department to act on behalf of the seven imperilled herds in the area.

The letter was sent on behalf of the Alberta Wilderness Association, the Sierra Club Prairie chapter and the Pembina Institute.

They argue that the provincial government has not done enough to halt the decline of the herds in the area, ignoring a recommendation in 2005 from its own woodland caribou recovery team that called for a moratorium on further mineral and timber allocations until range plans are completed. “Further, to the detriment of Boreal caribou herds in northeastern Alberta, the Government of Alberta had been ineffective in restricting industrial activity within the existing ranges of those herds,” the letter says. “As a result, the populations of the Boreal caribou herds in northeastern Alberta have continued to decline since 2005.”

The herds are not self-sustaining. Without intensive intervention, the chance they will survive is less than 50 per cent, according to a scientific review.

Sheila Muxlow, director of the Sierra Club Prairie, said the organization has tried to raise concerns about the environmental destruction, health concerns and treaty rights violations associated with the unabated oilsands development, to no avail. This endangered species legislation provides a lever to force the federal government to temporarily halt additional oilsands development until caribou habitat is protected, she said.

Alberta Sustainable Resource Development Minister Mel Knight doesn’t think the moratorium is a reasonable request. “I think what you have to do is take a look at what’s already been done in the province of Alberta,” he said. “I can tell you that for one thing the province is absolutely committed to ensuring caribou remain on the landscape in Alberta. We’ve done a tremendous amount of work. I would suggest also that the province is at this point certainly in the very best position to manage our own issues relative to species at risk. And we actually have a lot more information on caribou in the province of Alberta than the feds would have.”

Knight said they are working on the lower Athabasca regional plan and land use framework plan for the area. Consultation on that will come out soon and the environmental groups will have a chance to get involved in that, he added. That framework is designed to consider all needs on landscape there, including the amount of land needed as caribou recovery area.

Boreal caribou were listed as threatened under the Species at Risk Act when it came into force in 2002. Under the Species at Risk Act, the federal Minister of the Environment had a clear responsibility to prepare a recovery strategy for boreal caribou no later than June 2007, the letter says. To date, no national recovery strategy for boreal caribou has been completed.

The groups say they are supporting the request for immediate action that was sent to the minister on July 15 by the Beaver Lake Cree Nation, Enoch Cree Nation, Chipewyan Prairie Dene First Nation and Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. Those groups want further industrial action in the area to be halted until the recovery strategy is completed and implemented.

The environmental groups say mandatory action is required under the Species At Risk Act. The minister must recommend interim emergency protection of all current ranges of boreal caribou herds to the Governor in Council until such time as the recovery strategy is completed and implemented. The groups have asked that the minister comply by the end of this month. Ecojustice has said it is willing to go to court to fight for the caribou if Prentice does nothing.

Minister Prentice’s office was not able to respond to a request for comment Tuesday morning.


 

Economic Impact Review of Prosperity Mine Must be Independent - Media Release

Wednesday Aug 04, 2010
 
For Immediate release

August 4, 2010, Victoria, BC:   Any review of the economic impacts of the proposed Prosperity mine must be independent, public, and conducted according to accepted accounting methodology and practices, the president of RAVEN (Respecting Aboriginal Values & Environmental Needs) said today.

“If there is going to be a report going to the federal government from BC, all parties must be heard and all the facts must be aired and the findings must be impartial,” said David Williams.

“We fear however that this is not what energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Minister Bill Bennett had in mind this week when he announced he was preparing a report on the mine’s economic benefits for the federal government in an attempt to secure its approval for the proposed mine,” Williams stated.

“Mr. Bennett’s comments indicate he has already decided that the report will simply back up all the claims the company has made, but it would be an abuse of public dollars if all British Columbians end up receiving is a fan letter for the mining company paid for with their taxes.”

The government’s track record is not encouraging. According to an analysis by Dr. Joan Kuyek, the revenue and other economic claims included in Taseko Mines Ltd’s feasibility studies were not produced independently. They were estimates produced by a Taseko vice president.

These company figures appear to have been accepted without question by the BC Environmental Assessment Office review. These claims have since been wrongly promoted as fact by Taseko and Mr. Bennett, who have ignored or arbitrarily dismissed detailed analysis that demonstrates the costs to British Columbians could dwarf any revenues generated by the mine.

The government and company, for example, claim that the company would pay the industrial rate to power the mine. However, paying the “industrial rate” means the mine would purchase its electricity at less than half the cost to BC Hydro of purchasing new power to meet the massive increased demand. Someone would have to pay this difference, which would be at least $35 million a year and likely considerably more. How much of this tab would residential consumers and other BC Hydro customers have to pick up?

There has also been no response to detailed analysis which brings into serious question the estimates provided by the company in terms of the jobs that would be created for the community, and the taxes and other revenues that would be generated, or of the economic costs that would be cause by the destruction to the environment.

“The government needs an independent analysis of the economic consequences of the project to British Columbians, including the very significant impact on BC Hydro and its customers,” said resource economist. Dr. Marvin Shaffer.

“Surely the government should be trying to give British Columbians all the facts – not a report edited to meet Mr. Bennett’s well publicized personal views. We therefore challenge the Premier to appoint an independent auditor, with clear terms of reference to hear from all parties and examine all the claims and data.”
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Media contacts:
David Williams, RAVEN President: 250.592.1088, after Tuesday 250.935.6861
Dr. Marvin Shaffer: 604.787.1620



 

Prosperity mine would cost BC Hydro and us millions - Vancouver Sun opinion

Saturday Jul 31, 2010
 
Re: A future for Prosperity mine and B.C., July 27

A key question the federal government must address with respect to the proposed Prosperity mine project is whether the economic benefits of the mine would offset the destruction of Fish Lake and other adverse impacts its own environmental review panel concluded it would have.

There is no question that the mine would provide a welcome stimulus to the Williams Lake region, but it would also impose a significant cost on BC Hydro and, therefore, on British Columbians.

The mine needs a large amount of electricity, which means Hydro would have to buy or develop more power to meet the mine's requirements. Because the cost to Hydro to do this would be more than double what the mine would pay for the electricity it uses, Hydro would lose more than $35 million per year.

Proponents are correct that the mine would be paying Hydro's standard industrial rate, but that's the problem: The rate in B.C. does not begin to reflect the cost of new supply.

Marvin Shaffer, Vancouver

Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/opinion/Prosperity+mine+would+cost+Hydro+millions/3345713/story.html#ixzz0vZFxPN7S


 

Tsilhqot’in Chiefs to Minister Bennett: “Our culture cannot be bought”

Friday Jul 30, 2010
 

Chiefs warn BC Minister of Mines that no amount of money can compensate for devastating environmental and cultural impacts of the proposed Prosperity mine


July 30, 2010, Williams Lake
– The Chiefs of the Tsilhqot’in Nation caution BC Minister of Mines Bill Bennett that no amount of money can compensate for the devastating impacts the proposed Prosperity mine would have on Tsilhqot’in traditional lands and culture.

This comes in response to Minister Bennett’s recently announced plan to make a “public offer” of revenue sharing to First Nations that would be impacted by the controversial Prosperity project – a proposed copper and gold mine that requires the permanent destruction of a lake considered sacred by the Tsilhqot’in people.

“Our culture cannot be bought,” said Chief Marilyn Baptiste. “The Minister still does not understand what is at stake for our people – we are fighting for our cultural survival. Our elders and our members say that the destruction of this area would be like tearing the heart out of our culture. It would be a poison that cannot be cured.”

In a strongly worded environmental assessment report issued earlier this month, an independent federal panel concluded that the project proposed by Taseko Mines Ltd. would have significant, high magnitude impacts on: productive fisheries, threatened grizzly bear populations, Tsilhqot’in traditional use and cultural heritage, and the Aboriginal rights of the Tsilhqot’in people. The panel cautioned that the mine would permanently destroy an “important cultural and spiritual area” for the Tsilhqot’in people and that impacts on “current use activities, ceremonies, teaching, and cultural and spiritual practices would be irreversible, of high magnitude and have a long-term effect on the Tsilhqot’in.”

The panel specifically noted that “First Nations frequently stated that financial benefits could not compensate for the destruction”.

“Our people have spoken and we have a duty to uphold,” said Chief Ivor Myers. “Our members came out 100 per cent united against this mine at the public hearings, despite all the talk of revenue sharing. If the Federal Government chose to approve the mine it would desecrate our sacred burial and ceremonial sites – as a Nation we simply cannot allow that to happen.”


“Our members want jobs like everyone else,” said Chief Percy Guichon. “We partner with industry, we support development and we’ve entered agreements with government. We are working to raise our quality of life. But we cannot create healthy communities by destroying the lands that sustain us. We will not create economic development at the loss of a sacred lake or at the cost of who we are as Tsilhqot’in people.”

Chief Frances Laceese noted that the Minister’s planned “public offer” to First Nations is typical of the disrespect the Tsilhqot’in people have seen from the provincial government and Taseko. “This isn’t a good faith effort to hear the outcry from our communities or to deal with our concerns. It’s a publicity stunt. They want to keep the public distracted from the true costs of this mine – environmental and cultural destruction on a scale beyond anything a federal panel has described in the past”.

Chief Joe Alphonse, Tribal Chair of the Tsilhqot’in National Government, dismissed the Minister’s plan to make a public offer to First Nations as “a desperate move by a desperate government trying to salvage a desperate mining company.”

“The Minister could not show any less concern for the environment or First Nations,” Chief Alphonse continued. “These are the most serious warnings of environmental and cultural damage ever issued by a federal panel, and the Minister completely ignores them. It’s full speed ahead. All he can talk about is the almighty dollar. If Taseko and the Minister still think they can ram this project through, they’re stuck in the dark ages. First Nations are lining up across the country to stand with us in defence of our lands and culture.”

Commitments of support for the Tsilhqot’in Nation have been issued from several First Nations in BC and Canada, and organizations like the Union of BC Indian Chiefs and the BC First Nations Summit. Last week, the Chiefs of the Assembly of First Nations passed a national resolution pledging their support for the Tsilhqot’in Nation and warning the federal government that approval for the project in light of the panel’s conclusions “would demonstrate utter disregard for the survival of First Nations as distinctive cultures within Canada.”

Media inquiries: Chief Joe Alphonse, Tribal Chair, TNG – 250.394.4212 (w); 250.394.4422 (h), 250.305.8282 (c).


 

Decision puts First Nations rights under wheels of mineral wealth - Digital Journal

Monday Jul 26, 2010
 
Taseko Mines announced recently it expected its Prosperity Mine to be approved by September. Taseko is so confident it will get approval, the corporation is recruiting new employees.
The allure of the economic development appears to be persuading the Government of Canada to overlook the negative environmental and social impacts of the Prosperity Mine in favour of allowing the strip mine to proceed. Taseko claims the mine will create 550 jobs over 22 years, and will also result in a spin-off of 1,280 indirect job opportunities. The mine site is the source of millions of tonnes of gold and copper.

There's only one problem with Prosperity Mine, which was originally mined in the 1930s. Situated in British Columbia, the mine also happens to be on lands now granted to the Tsilhqot’in, a decision handed down in 2007 after the First Nations nation fought for those access rights in court. Last year the Tsilhqot’in went to court in an attempt to stop Prosperity Mine. That case has not yet been heard.

Prosperity Mine is situated close to a lake named Tetzan Biny, popularly known as 'Fish Lake.' Taseko has proposed using Fish Lake as a tailings pond, and said it will eventually create a new lake to replace Fish Lake.

Approval for the mine is expected to be granted in spite of conclusions by a Federal Review Panel, established by the Federal Minister of the Environment that

"... the Project would have a significant adverse effect on the Tsilhqot’in Nation regarding their current use of lands and resources for traditional purposes and on cultural heritage resources;"

"... the Project would result in a significant adverse effect on established Tsilhqot’in Aboriginal rights as defined in the William case; the Project would result in a significant adverse effect on the potential Tsilhqot’in Aboriginal right to fish in Teztan Biny (Fish Lake);"

"... the Project would result in the inability of the fisheries resource in the Teztan Yeqox (Fish Creek) watershed and the South Chilcotin grizzly bear population to meet the needs of present and future generations."

The Vancouver Sun reported that while the province of British Columbia came to similar conclusions about Prosperity Mine, the province decided the economic benefits outweighed the detrimental effects of the mine project.

Chief Bernie Elkins outlined the history of his people's use of Fish Lake earlier this year.

"... For generations the Tsilhqot'in people have gone to Teztan Biny to fish, to set fish traps and nets, hunt and trap, gather medicines, engage in spiritual practices, reconnect with the land, honor our Elders, share stories, and foster unity. It is more than a lake to us – it is an integral part of Tsilhqot'in culture, and vital to our cultural continuity and survival."

Elkins went on to say:

"... The Tsilhqot'in Nation is neither against development nor against the responsible use of natural resources. In fact, as the traditional keepers of the land for thousands of years, we have successfully balanced the need for sustainable harvesting with long-term preservation. To the Tsilhqot'in people, the destruction of Teztan Biny is an unacceptable use of land and water, incompatible with modern principles of sustainability, and an ill-conceived and shortsighted attempt to inject an industrial project into the heart of our pristine watershed."

In response to the anticipated approval of the mine, the Tsilhqot'in National Government asked for and received a pledge of support from the Assembly of First Nations for help during the 31st Annual General Assembly which concluded July 22.
The pledge of support was welcomed by the Tsilhqot'in Nation. Tribal Chair of the Tsilhqot'in National Government, Chief Joe Alphonse said

“First Nations across the country are backing us and making this a national fight because they know that if this can happen to us, it can happen to them. This project is not justifiable. The federal government must heed the findings of significant and irreparable harm to the environment and to our culture and rights that were reported in the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency review of this project. It must reject the Prosperity proposal.”

Xeni Gwet’in Chief Marilyn Baptiste added:

“The message to the federal government is loud and clear: There is no way that approval of this mine will be accepted by First Nations of the Tsilhqot'in, the province or the country."

A number of non-native organizations are supporting the Tsilhqot'in Nation. While the Wilderness Committee urges the public to write letters to the government of Canada, the Sierra Club said it will be lobbying members of parliament in the fall to try to stop the mine from being approved. There is a Facebook page for Save Fish Lake, and Protect Fish Lake has a petition people can sign.

Click here to read the Digital Journal version - with links to various sources, and YouTube video.

RAVEN note:
On our website, there are email addresses and a sample letter you can send to Prime Minister Harper and the various federal ministers.

 

National Chiefs say No to B.C. mine - Black Press

Monday Jul 26, 2010
  Byline: Tom Fletcher

A remote lake in the B.C. ranch country has become the focus of a national dispute over government authority to regulate industry on Crown land.

Assembly of First Nations (AFN) leaders from across Canada have backed National Chief Shawn Atleo's call for the federal cabinet to reject the Prosperity gold and copper mine proposal near Williams Lake after more than a decade of study.

B.C. issued an environmental assessment permit for the mine in January, after reviewing volumes of surveys on the effect of using Fish Lake as storage for acidic waste rock and replacing the lost rainbow trout habitat with a new reservoir.

A federal assessment panel came to similar conclusions, but Atleo noted its observation that the mine plan would destroy a site of "spiritual power and healing for the Tsilhqot'in."

The Tsilhqot'in National Government and associated bands have been prominent in court battle against federal and provincial authority on land that was never subject to treaties. It has rejected treaty negotiations as well as all mining in its traditional territory.

The federal panel doesn't make a recommendation on whether the environmental impact is justified by the $800 million investment and 500 direct jobs for a region hit hard by the pine beetle infestation. The B.C. cabinet decided it is, and the federal government faces the same choice after a summer-long consultation with aboriginal groups.

The AFN resolution passed in Winnipeg describes the Prosperity mine project as a test case. The chiefs' assembly voted to "advise the federal government that First Nations across Canada are watching its decision to see whether there remains any value or integrity in environmental assessments for major projects, or whether First Nations must turn to litigation and other means to assert our rights and protect our cultures."

Detailed habitat studies and fishing surveys going back to the late 1990s show that Fish Lake has an abundance of naturally occurring rainbow trout. Creel surveys showed the lake was fished successfully hundreds of times each year.



 

First Nations across Canada unite against 'Prosperity' mine - Press Release

Thursday Jul 22, 2010
 


AFN Chiefs Pledge to Help Defend Lands against Proposed Prosperity Mine

Caution Federal Government against ignoring CEAA panel’s findings

For immediate release: July 22 2010: The Tsilhqot'in National Government today welcomed the pledge by the Assembly of First Nations’ Chiefs-in Assembly to “stand behind the Tsilhqot’in Nation in defence of these lands regardless of the decision made by the Federal Government.”

“The message from the chiefs at the Annual General Assembly in Winnipeg this week should make it clear to government and industry that this environmentally and culturally unsupportable – and economically questionable – proposed mine is not the way forward for mining or for relationships with First Nations in BC or Canada,” said Chief Joe Alphonse, Tribal Chair, Tsilhqot’in National Government.

Chief Alphonse said: “First Nations across the country are backing us and making this a national fight because they know that if this can happen to us, it can happen to them. This project is not justifiable. The federal government must heed the findings of significant and irreparable harm to the environment and to our culture and rights that were reported in the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency review of this project. It must reject the Prosperity proposal.”

Xeni Gwet’in Chief Marilyn Baptiste said: “Chiefs throughout the country have spoken with one voice to support the positions already taken by our government, the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, the BC First Nations Summit, BC’s Carrier Sekani Tribal Council and other First Nations groups, and in a personal letter of support from AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo.

“The message to the federal government is loud and clear: There is no way that approval of this mine will be accepted by First Nations of the Tsilhqot'in, the province or the country,” said Chief Baptiste.

The resolution states that the Chiefs-in-Assembly:

1. Fully support the efforts of the Tsilhqot’in Nation to protect their lands of profound cultural and spiritual value to its people from the proposed Prosperity Gold-Copper Mine, and will stand behind the Tsilhqot’in Nation in defence of these lands regardless of the decision made by the Federal Government.

2. Call upon the Federal Government to heed the cautions of its independent Panel, demonstrate commitment to environmental protection and the cultural survival of First Nations, and reject the proposed Prosperity Gold-Copper Mine.

3. Advise the Federal Government that First Nations across Canada are watching its decision to see whether there remains any value or integrity in environmental assessments for major projects, or whether First Nations must turn to litigation and other means to assert our rights and protect our cultures.

4. Caution the Federal Government that approval of the proposed Prosperity Gold-Copper Mine, despite the clear warnings of its independent Panel, would demonstrate utter disregard for the survival of First Nations as distinctive cultures within Canada.

5. Direct the National Chief and Assembly of First Nations to advocate on behalf of the Tsilhqot’in Nation and communicate the clear support of Chiefs-in-Assembly.

Media inquiries: Chief Joe Alphonse, Tribal Chairman, TNG – 250.305.8282


 

Squeezed out of mining review - Vancouver Sun

Monday Jul 19, 2010
 
Squeezed out of mining review



By Marilyn Baptiste, Special to the Sun July 19, 2010


The story "Hazy rules leave big B.C. projects in limbo" by Don Cayo, and the editorial "Risks and rewards of two big projects" must be weighed carefully, are encouraging attempts to look at all sides of the issue involving mining in British Columbia and the approval process.

However, there are points that need to be included in any debate if we are to ensure the same mistakes do not keep being made. I will focus on several matters raised by Taseko Mines' Prosperity proposal.

The first point to note is the province and the company withdrew from negations with First Nations to subject this proposal to a joint federal-provincial review process. They decided it would be to their advantage to have two processes.

Secondly, the Prosperity project demonstrates a problem with approach, as well as with process. If Taseko has been working on this for 17 years, why were only limited attempts to consult our first nations made in recent years?

The approach in this case, as with too many others involving unceded First Nations territories, saw the company use B.C.'s archaic free-entry access to stake claims, explore and develop the project at great expense. When talks with first nations began on the proposal now under review, we were presented with a done deal that we could only see limiting our role to one of rubber-stamping a decision already made.

This brings us to the provincial environmental review process. It allows only questions the province and participating company want addressed. It does not allow affected First Nations to identify other issues of concern. This undermines the process by making it appear more of rubber-stamping than of fully reviewing the issues.

In the case of the Prosperity review, it is clear to many that this was the case. Perhaps this explains why the B.C. report found no negative costs to the province when, in fact, the subsidy that British Columbians will have to pay to provide cheap electricity to the mine would be $35 million a year.

There is a need to find a better way forward, but ramming ahead with this project will set back relations, as shown by our letters of support to oppose this mine's approval from AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo, the Union of BC Indian Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, the BC First Nations Summit, First Nations Women Advocating Responsible Mining and others. It could undermine the great work that a number of mining companies are undertaking in order to work with first nations to produce substantial projects on traditional lands.

It is difficult to engage in reasonable debate when Junior Mining Minister Randy Hawes dismisses as "hogwash" significant reports such as the recent study of B.C.'s mining regime on First Nations, conducted by Harvard Law School's International Human Rights Clinic, and insists government relations with first nations with respect to mining are fine when clearly they are not.

So the process needs to be improved -- and the reality is that some companies are already taking initiatives to do this by working directly with first nations in the absence of a government resolution of our title and rights.

Marilyn Baptiste is Chief, Xeni Gwet'in First Nations Government, Tsilhqot'in Nation, Nemaiah Valley, B.C.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/life/Squeezed+mining+review/3295065/story.html#ixzz0uAH46hB4


 

First Nations call for federal emergency order protecting caribou - Press Release

Thursday Jul 15, 2010
 
PRESS RELEASE

First Nations in north-eastern Alberta call for federal emergency order protecting woodland caribou

No further industrial development anywhere in remaining herd ranges

For immediate release

July 15, 2010 - Beaver Lake Cree Nation, Enoch Cree Nation, Chipewyan Prairie Dene First Nation and Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation are calling on the federal government to issue an emergency order under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) protecting the full ranges of woodland caribou in north-eastern Alberta from any further industrial development.

The federal Minister of Environment is more than three years past a mandatory statutory deadline for preparing a recovery strategy for woodland caribou, which are listed as a threatened species under SARA. A recovery strategy is a key step in the conservation of any threatened species, and is required before the federal government can provide long-term protection for the remaining habitat of woodland caribou.

According to a report released today and authored by Dr. Stan Boutin, a leading caribou expert at the University of Alberta, woodland caribou are in steep decline in the area because of the cumulative effects of rampant industrial development on caribou habitat, particularly by the oil and gas industry.

According to Dr. Boutin’s report, the East Side Athabasca River herd has declined by 71% since 1996 while the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range herd has declined 74% since 1998. Dr. Boutin’s report notes that: “This level of decline is dramatic and it is a strong signal that drastic immediate management action is required to keep caribou from disappearing completely” in the Alberta traditional territory of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation. Dr. Boutin’s recommendations include habitat restoration and full protection of remaining caribou ranges in north-eastern Alberta.

Chief Al Lameman of Beaver Lake Cree Nation said: “We are calling on government to immediately halt the destruction of our lands, lands that sustain our caribou and our people. It is difficult for me to express the anger I feel at the loss of this noble animal in our territory. Our traditional land is dwindling. We need habitat for our animals to ensure there is a healthy surplus. These animals sustain us and, as they die, our future becomes uncertain. We must act now to take care of Mother Earth.”

In a strongly-worded letter sent earlier today to environment Minister Jim Prentice, the First Nations give the federal government 45 days to prepare an emergency order protecting caribou in the region.

Jack Woodward, legal counsel for the First Nations in this matter, said: “We feel a request for an emergency order is entirely reasonable, given the sharp decline in caribou and given the federal environment Minister’s ongoing failure to prepare a recovery plan more than three years after expiry of the mandatory deadline. The federal government has tried to justify refusing to act on this obligation with the surprising claim that time is needed to consult with First Nations. With this demand we are making it clear that First Nations are not standing in the way of action – they are demanding immediate emergency protection for the caribou until long-term habitat protection is in place.”

Chief Vern Janvier of the Chipewyan Prairie Dene said: “The extinction of caribou would mean the extinction of our people. The caribou is our sacred animal; it is a measure of our way of life. When the caribou are dying, the land is dying. We see no respect from government for the caribou or for us as humans. The way Alberta is operating, profit for the oil industry is number one, and everything else can be sacrificed.”
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Contacts:
Susan Smitten, Director of Communications,
Woodward & Company - 250.383.2356

Ron Lameman, Advisor to Beaver Lake Cree Nation
BLCN office - 780.623.4549

PDF of this press release available here.

Links:
Demand letter to Federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice from First Nations.

Expert report on woodland caribou [Rangifer tarandus caribou] in the Traditional Territory of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation – Dr. Stan Boutin, July 5, 2010

Maps of BLCN territory (oil sands leases & caribou ranges):

Note to editors:
The Co-operative Bank in Manchester, UK, which provided funding for Dr. Boutin’s report, issued a press release and copy of the report on July 14, 2010. For more information, visit their website at: www.co-operativecampaigns.co.uk/caribou and the bank published a report to coincide that examines the implications for the tar sands industry.

To see the Save the Caribou - Stop the Tar Sands! report, click here.



 

BC Taxpayers Would Pay $35M Annual Hydro Subsidy for Prosperity Mine - Press Release

Wednesday Jul 14, 2010
 


British Columbians would pay millions a year to subsidize proposed Prosperity Mine – Study

Hydro subsidy alone to cost British Columbians $35 million a year

July 14, 2010 -Taseko Mines Ltd’s proposed Prosperity Mine would cost British Columbians at least $20 million a year, with hydro subsidies and other costs dwarfing any benefits the mine might create for the government, according to a detailed analysis of the company’s Environmental Impact Statement.

The analysis by Dr. Marvin Shaffer, a professor at Simon Fraser University and respected BC resource economist, states: “Contrary to statements in the EIS (the company’s Environmental Impact Statement) suggesting this project would generate billions of dollars of net benefits, the project would appear, based on the available information, to generate significant net costs for British Columbians and Canadians as a whole.”

Responding to the report, Tl’etinqox-t’in Chief Joe Alphonse said: “This report shows British Columbians are being asked to endorse the destruction of Fish Lake and our First Nations culture, way of life and rights – and to pay Taseko millions to do it. This study demonstrates the claims of massive revenues and jobs for all are a myth, designed to make people believe the permanent damage that will be wreaked is justified.”

Mines use a tremendous amount of power and BC Hydro would need to create an expensive new power supply to meet this project’s demands. Currently Taseko would pay BC Hydro less than half the true power costs to construct and operate the mine. Dr. Shaffer found that this huge subsidy to the mining industry and loss of revenue to BC Hydro would cost BC Hydro, and ultimately all of its customers at least $35 million a year, and likely considerably more.

The cost of offsetting greenhouse gas emissions would add another $3 million a year to the tab, said Dr. Shaffer, who presented his findings to the federal environmental assessment panel that recently reported on the significant negative environmental and first nations impacts the proposed mine would create. Dr. Shaffer’s report states these combined costs alone would be more than double the benefits the government could expect – and leave British Columbians with a net cost of some $20 million a year.

The company’s Environmental Impact Statement and the BC Environmental Assessment Office review have both cited claims of huge benefits to counter environmental objections. They argue that the revenues and jobs alone justify destroying Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) and ignoring First Nations and environmental concerns.

Commenting on the BCEAO’s statement that 'there is no expected cost to future generations except for the loss of Fish Lake and Little Fish Lake,' Dr. Shaffer said: “That is factually incorrect. This is not a minor oversight in the BCEAO report; it is a major failing. It ignores the multi-million dollar cost the mine would impose on BC Hydro and its customers.”

Dr. Shaffer also detailed how both the company and the BCEAO failed to incorporate standard economic analysis into their estimates of increased employment benefits by failing to recognize the amount of income that would otherwise have been earned by the people employed. Using these standard practices, the employment benefit would be $7.6 million, and not the $30.6 million that is claimed.

Dr. Shaffer also noted most of the jobs created by the mine would go to local people already employed or to outsiders brought in because of their skills. The mine would have little impact on the local unemployed, while creating infrastructure and social costs to support increased populations.

Dr. Shaffer estimated the corporate tax revenues to governments might reach $7.5 million, as opposed to the $23 million a year claimed by the company, and that the figure could be even lower. His comments were backed up at the hearings by Joan Kuyek, testifying for MiningWatch Canada, who noted that for its Gibraltar mine, Taseko Mines Ltd. estimated its 2009 tax at statutory rates of $3.38 million, but paid only $669,000, slightly over one per cent of its operating profit.

As for the company’s EIS claim that mineral taxes would generate $6.5 million a year, Dr. Shaffer noted the project’s feasibility study put the figure at $3.2 million and that even this might be high. Ms. Kuyek told the panel hearings Taseko paid $606,000 in mineral taxes on an operating profit of $28.1 million in 2008, and $981,000 on an operating profit of $48.3 million in 2009 for an average rate of two per cent.

Dr. Shaffer’s report concludes: “The estimated costs to BC Hydro and its customers, plus the GHG offset costs imposed by this project total almost $38 million per year. That significantly exceeds the estimated employment and government net benefits from the project. The quantified consequences suggest net costs averaging $20 million per year over the life of the mine. There would as well be the non-quantified environmental, cultural and social costs, of great concern to the affected First Nations and others.

“The only trade-off this project offers is the positive community impacts arising from the increase in regional economic and related opportunities. However, there is no evidence to suggest these are of a magnitude that would offset the very significant costs this project would impose. As stated at the outset, there is no evidence to suggest the project would generate positive net benefits overall.”

David Williams, President of Friends of the Nemaiah Valley (FONV), which commissioned the report, said:
"We believe that if the provincial government had bothered to do a similarly correct analysis it would never have allowed the presumed economic benefits (of Prosperity Mine) over-ride what we now know are overwhelming environmental and human costs.”

Xeni Gwet’in Chief, Marilyn Baptiste added: “The only defence that has been put forward for destroying Fish Lake to build this mine is the claims of huge benefits – it cannot be justified on an environmental basis. This report demonstrates this mine will end up actually costing British Columbians at least $20 million a year.

“That leaves only one reason for building this mine; to make money for the company and its investors. This cannot be justifiable grounds for approving such an environmentally and culturally destructive project.”
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View Dr. Shaffer’s Report at: http://www.ceaa.gc.ca/050/documents/41844/41844E.pdf

Media inquiries: Chief Joe Alphonse, Tribal Chairman, TNG – 250.305.8282 (c)/394.7212
Susan Smitten - 250.383.2356 / cell 604.209.1535


 

Fish Lake Not Yet Safe from Destruction - The Tyee

Thursday Jul 08, 2010
 
Prosperity Mine will now argue its economic benefits, and feds will be handed a false picture.

By Tony Pearse

If you read the news last week thinking a trout-rich northern British Columbia lake was "saved" from being filled with toxic tailings from the proposed Prosperity mine, you would be wrong.

Despite a negative environmental assessment report, the federal government could still find the project "justifiable under the circumstances" and give the go-ahead if it decides that other factors outweigh the environmental costs -- for example, the economic benefits of killing Teztan Biny Lake, also known as Fish Lake.

Unfortunately, if the government relies on the numbers handed to it by the panel, the measure of economic benefits the government will be vastly overestimated. A strong independent case has been made that the mine will cost British Columbians more than it will benefit them -- but that analysis is not in front of federal decision makers.

A slew of adverse effects

The conclusion of last week's assessment report from the federal government's Prosperity review panel was that an array of significantly adverse effects would inevitably result if Taseko's copper-gold mining project in the Chilcotin area was to proceed. The panel concluded that the Taseko's mine would result in significant adverse effects to fish and fish habitat, navigation, current use of lands and resources for traditional purposes by Aboriginal communities, cultural heritage, and on certain Aboriginal title and rights in the area.

Unlike most federal assessment panels, which do not find significant adverse effects of proposed projects, this one found a slew of them.

Strangely, however, the panel didn't, or couldn't, actually recommend to the federal authorities that in the light of all these negative impacts the project ought not to be approved. Instead, the panel was directed to provide information to the ministers to help them decide whether or not the project could be justified, even if there were adverse effects.

One of the usual suspects in these matters of justifiability is, of course, the alleged substantial economic benefits of the proposed project. In this case, the numbers trotted out by Taseko are not inconsequential -- 375 direct jobs, an annual payroll of approximately $30 million, $200 million in annual expenditures in the provincial economy, some $30 million in government revenues, and an overall injection of $50 billion into the economy over 20 years. These are, unfortunately, the numbers the panel passed along to the ministers as reliable information on the economic benefits of the project the ministers could consider in their decision-making.

The difficulty with all this is that in terms of identifying the net economic benefits of the project, the numbers provided by the company are seriously misleading.

Relying on the company’s numbers

The panel had expert evidence before it that Taseko had substantially overestimated the economic benefits of its project and yet, in providing information to the ministers concerning justifiability, it did not pass on the only independent analysis available. This is bad news, because it is virtually certain that the ministers will examine the issue of economic benefits if they contemplate approving the project despite the serious environmental and cultural consequences identified by the panel.

Not incidentally, these are the same numbers with which Robin Jungers, then executive director of the BC Environmental Assessment Office, "justified" the project in his December 2009 recommendation to provincial ministers to approve the project, even though the loss of Fish Lake was determined to be a significant adverse environmental effect. B.C.'s review of the Prosperity mine was a sham in many ways, but this particular move by the executive director to rely on extraneous information from the company about the presumed economic benefits to justify approval to the provincial ministers was outright shameful. The economics of Prosperity were never independently examined by the B.C. review process, and the executive director had no business writing off the environmental impacts of Prosperity against presumed economic benefits.

The unreliability of Taseko's stated numbers came to light when independent expert evidence on the economics of the project was presented to the Prosperity panel.

Huge costs not taken into account

Marvin Shaffer, an SFU professor and prominent resource economist in B.C., examined the company's statements of net costs and benefits of the project, and concluded that the net costs would significantly exceed the estimated benefits.

For example, Shaffer noted in his technical submission that Taseko estimated it would be buying power at $37 per MWh, based on what it is currently paying for power at its operating Gibraltar mine near Williams Lake. However, the cost to BC Hydro of acquiring this power would be much higher. Shaffer used Hydro's 2006 call for energy, which averaged $88 per MWh, to conclude that Hydro would lose $50 on each incremental MWh, or approximately $35 million each year over the mine life. This cost would ultimately be borne by all the customers of Hydro.

Shaffer told the panel that the BC EAO's conclusion that "there is no expected cost to future generations except for the loss of Fish Lake and Little Fish lake” was factually incorrect. There would be a very large, on-going cost to present and future generations from this arrangement.

Shaffer also noted there would be some employment net benefits, but these would be limited by the fact that labour shortages are expected in the medium to long term, and the job opportunities generated by the project are not likely to employ persons who would otherwise be unemployed. Similarly, there are some government net benefits from mineral taxes and income taxes, but these are far less than the gross tax impacts presented by Taseko, and not at all certain.

Tax revenues overestimated

As for tax revenues to government, Shaffer questioned the company's estimate of $25 million per year, stating that the effective tax rate, taking into account financing and corporate tax strategies, would be less that $7.5 million. Further, there is no certainty such payments would be made, since it would depend upon the economic performance of the mine and the corporate strategies used to minimize payments.

Joan Kuyek, testifying for MiningWatch Canada corroborated Shaffer's point that actual taxes paid by the company could be significantly less than what Taseko was alleging. On its Gibraltar mine, according to Kuyek, Taseko paid mineral taxes of $606,000 on an operating profit of $28.1 million in 2008, and $981,000 on an operating profit of $48.3 million in 2009, the tax averaging some two per cent over these two years. As for income taxes, Taseko estimated its 2009 tax at statutory rates of $3.38 million, but paid only $669,000, slightly over one per cent of its operating profit.

In total, Shaffer concluded that the direct corporate income mineral and property taxes paid by the mine might yield up to $11 million per year, far less than the $35 million cost imposed on Hydro on each year. Shaffer also did some calculations for air contaminant and GHG emissions costs to B.C., showing that unless the mine pays carbon taxes or permit fees in amounts sufficient to offset these emissions, they could cost British Columbians some $2.6 million per year during construction and operation.

Other economic costs, unquantified but considered by Shaffer to be "strongly negative overall" include pressures on housing, services and infrastructure, impacts to traditional resources and cultural values of the affected Aboriginal communities.

Shaffer pointed out that decision-makers need to look at net economic benefits, and determine whether they would be of a magnitude that would offset the adverse effects. So, for example, potential estimates of employment induced by the project would need to consider the incremental employment or other benefits of those jobs relative to what those hired would otherwise be doing. Similarly with estimates of government revenue impacts -- these need to indicate the incremental revenues governments would receive and would need to net out the incremental expenditures government would incur.

British Columbians could lose big

Shaffer's overall conclusion is that contrary to Taseko's pronouncements that the project would generate billions of dollars of net benefits, the project would appear, based on available information, to generate significant net costs for British Columbians and Canadians as a whole. Not including the unquantified environmental, cultural and social costs, Shaffer concludes that the net costs of the project would average $20 million per year over the life of the mine. This number is based on Shaffer's use of the 2006 reference rate for power at $88 per MWh -- recent numbers in the media suggest electricity from Site C at $160 per MWh.

The picture from all this is that the net economic benefits of the proposed Prosperity mine will be substantially less than what the company tells us and may, in fact, be negative overall. So, if the federal cabinet is even thinking of justifying the project on economic grounds, it would be well served by careful scrutiny of the evidentiary record from the panel hearings, or else an independent critical assessment of the project economics by someone who knows what they're doing.

Tony Pearse is a resource planner specializing in land use and resource management issues involving First Nation communities and territories in western Canada. He assisted the Tsihlqot'in National Government at the technical hearings of the federal panel review of the Prosperity mine.

For copy of The Tyee article, click here.

Click here for Dr. Marvin Shaffer's economic analysis - "Benefits and Costs of the Proposed Prosperity Gold-Copper Mine Project

 

TNG denounces BC Minister of Mines' call for 'development at any cost' - News Release

Monday Jul 05, 2010
  Federal Panel report warns of “high magnitude, long term, irreversible” impacts on the environment and on Tsilhqot’in people and culture

July 5, 2010, Williams Lake – The Tsilhqot’in National Government denounces the BC Minister of Mines’ call for federal approval of the proposed Prosperity project in the face of a report from an independent panel warning that the open-pit copper and gold mine would have “significant adverse effects” on the environment and “high magnitude, long term, irreversible” impacts on Tsilhqot’in people and culture.

Provincial Minister Bill Bennett was quoted in Saturday’s Globe and Mail as stating “We frankly would like to see this project happen”. The Mining Association of British Columbia also called for federal approval of the project – on the same day that the federal Panel issued a strongly worded environmental assessment report confirming that the mine would permanently destroy “an important cultural and spiritual area ... currently used by the Tsilhqot'in for traditional purposes”, lead to “long term” impacts on the physical and mental health of the Tsilhqot'in communities, and create “high magnitude, long-term and irreversible” effects on fish and fish habitat that cannot be mitigated.

“The Province and the Mining Association often talk about their so-called commitment to responsible mining”, said Chief Marilyn Baptiste, of the Xeni Gwet’in community of the Tsilhqot’in Nation. “This was an opportunity to walk the talk, and to admit that some projects are unsustainable and should not go forward. The Panel confirmed that this mine would permanently destroy an area that is a place of worship for our people, a cultural school for our children, and a bread basket that has fed our people for centuries. And the very same day, the Minister and the Mining Association are calling for approval of the Project at any cost.”

It is highly unusual for a federal review panel to find that a proposed project will have significant environmental impacts. “When you see these conclusions from a federal Panel, it really sounds the alarm”, said Jay Nelson, a lawyer for the TNG. “In the almost 20 years of federal environmental assessments, covering dozens and dozens of major projects, only two previous Panels have found significant adverse environmental impacts – and in both cases the projects were rejected by the federal government. To put this in perspective, all of the major oil sands projects in northern Alberta have been approved based on findings of no significant adverse impacts on the environment after mitigation.”

“The BC environmental assessment that the mine company is relying on was a rubber-stamp process,” said Chief Joe Alphonse, Tribal Chair of the TNG. “We’re encouraged to see that this independent federal assessment has some integrity. The federal Panel confirmed how important Teztan Biny and Nabas are for the survival of our Tsilhqot’in culture. First Nations everywhere are watching to see how much our cultural survival really means to the government at the end of the day. This is a line that should not be crossed”.

In its report, the federal Panel concluded that the project would result in “significant adverse environmental effects” on fisheries, threatened grizzly bear populations, on First Nations’ traditional use and cultural heritage in the area, and on proven and asserted Aboriginal rights. The Panel confirmed that “the island in Teztan Biny (Fish Lake), which would be destroyed by the mine waste storage area, is a place of spiritual power and healing for the Tsilhqot'in”.
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For more information, please contact:

Chief Joe Alphonse
Tribal Chairman
Tsilhqot’in National Government
c. 250.305.8282
t. 250.394.4212

Sean Nixon or Jay Nelson
Woodward & Company Lawyers LLP
t. 250.383.2356

Click here for the Backgrounder: Prosperity Mine Review Panel Assessment

 

B.C. Government Treats Aboriginal Rights as Meaningless - TNG Press Release

Monday Jun 14, 2010
  Tsilhqot’in Nation Denounces Long-Term Lease for Taseko 

June 14, 2010, Williams Lake – The Tsilhqot’in National Government angrily denounced the provincial government’s decision to grant Taseko Mines Ltd.(TML) a long-term mining lease for its proposed open-pit mine at Teztan Biny (Fish Lake), an area where the Tsilhqot’in Nation holds proven Aboriginal hunting and trapping rights.

“B.C. is essentially saying our proven rights are meaningless,” said Chief Marilyn Baptiste, of the Xeni Gwet’in First Nation, one of the six Tsilhqot’in communities that comprise the Tsilhqot’in Nation. “The Province is handing Taseko long-term property rights to lands where we are actively exercising our proven Aboriginal hunting and trapping rights – before it is even known whether Taseko’s project will be approved or rejected by the federal government.”

Federal approval is far from certain. During recent public hearings held by a federal environmental review panel, the Tsilhqot'in Nation actively opposed the project, which would destroy two lakes of profound cultural and spiritual significance, with elders, members and even school children describing the unfathomable loss that this destruction would mean for their communities and traditional way of life. The federal panel is due to issue its report and recommendation on July 2nd.

“During those hearings, our Nation, people from Williams Lake, environmental organizations from across the country and a number of eminent scientists warned the Panel that this mine will cause untold damage to the Tsilhqot’in culture and to a complex ecosystem,” says TNG Tribal Chief Joe Alphonse of Taseko’s plan is to drain the pristine, trout-bearing Fish Lake and dump waste rock there. “Even federal agencies said that Taseko’s plan to destroy Fish Lake and Little Fish Lake didn’t meet their guidelines. It’s a black eye for British Columbia. It’s hard to find anything good to say about it.”

The Tsilhqot’in National Government (TNG) called the decision to issue the 25-year renewable lease “disrespectful.” Chief Alphonse: “There is still a need for Tsilhqot’in endorsement to operate with the Tsilhqot’in traditional land. The Tsilhqot’in National Government does not feel that we have been adequately consulted.” TNG has written to Jody Shimkus, the Chief Gold Commissioner, recommending the decision be rescinded.

The issue of allowing mining companies to use lakes as garbage dumps for mining waste is now a national issue. On June 4th, the Sandy Pond Alliance – a coalition that includes the Council of Canadians, MiningWatch and other eNGOs – launched a court case against the federal government contending that the regulation currently used to authorize the destruction of lakes for mining purposes is unlawful.

On Wednesday, June 16th, there will be a protest at 12:30 pm in downtown Vancouver at the Taseko Mines Annual General Meeting. The rally at 837 W. Hastings Street has been organized by Council of Canadians in support of the fight to defend Teztan Biny (Fish Lake).

-30-


For more information, please contact:

Chief Marilyn Baptiste
Xeni Gwet’in First Nation
t. 250.394.7023
c. 250.267.1401


 

So long and thanks for all the fish - Canadian Geographic June 2010

Monday Jun 14, 2010
 
Byline: John Lorinc
Canadian Geographic

Under an obscure clause in federal fisheries laws, mining companies can obtain special dispensation to transform out-of-the-way lakes into tailings ponds or drain them outright to make way for open-face pits. That, at least, is the plan for Taseko Mines Limited's massive Prosperity gold and copper mine, to be located 125 kilometres southwest of Williams Lake, B.C., in an area with numerous Dene communities represented by the Tsilhqot'in National Government.

The Vancouver-based company plans to operate the $800 million mine for 20 years, creating about 350 long-term jobs. To build it, Taseko wants to drain 111-hectare Fish Lake and Fish Creek and turn nearby Little Fish Lake into a dumping ground for mining effluent. Both lakes are situated over the gold and copper seam.

They're not the only lakes facing a similar fate. According to the Council of Canadians, there are now 11 designated "Schedule 2" lakes, a.k.a. "tailings impoundment areas," across the country. The two lakes in this case have large and healthy rainbow trout habitats and have cultural and historical significance to local First Nations. Fish Lake is one of the province's best fishing areas, says Chief Joe Alphonse, whose constituents live downstream from the Prosperity site.

Community members are concerned that toxins from the tailings pond will contaminate
downstream drinking water and other fish habitats. In January, the B.C. government gave
Taseko the green light. A federal environmental assessment panel probed the company's proposal during hearings in April, and a decision from Ottawa is expected this summer.

According to Taseko president and CEO Russell Hallbauer, the mine "will provide tremendous benefits to the social and economic future of British Columbia."

If the notion of turning a healthy lake into a sludge pond isn't troubling enough, British Columbia attached a curious condition (one of 103) to its approval. To get the permit, Taseko has to submit a plan to build a new 113-hectare lake higher up the mountain and stock it with
trout. Aptly, the new lake is to be named Prosperity.

That scheme "doesn't make any sense," says Alphonse, who isn't the only person questioning the plan to clear away some vegetation, dig a hole, construct a retention dam and redirect water from the surrounding watershed. "

To read the rest of the article, please click here.

Reprinted with permission of the author.  Do not reproduce without written permission of John Lorinc. 



 

Mine could endanger grizzly population, biologist warns - Vancouver Sun

Wednesday Jun 09, 2010
 
Taseko Mines Ltd. accused of minimizing the impact of its Prosperity development in the Chilcotin


Byline: Larry Pynn

Development of the Prosperity gold-copper mine in the Chilcotin would not only destroy extensive fish habitat but would have a "significant impact" on the area's threatened grizzly population, according to a bear biologist's study submitted to a federal review panel.

Wayne McCrory, a consulting biologist based near New Denver in the West Kootenays, cited the loss of 405 hectares of wetland and 352 hectares of riparian habitat, as well as the certainty for increased mine and recreational traffic along the 50-kilometre mine-access road to kill or displace grizzlies.

McCrory said various human activities in the region already impact wildlife, including human settlement as well as road building and clear-cutting, mineral exploration, overgrazing, poaching and climate change.

"This population cannot sustain further habitat losses or increases in human-induced mortality....," he writes, noting wild horses, mule deer and moose would also suffer.

"These factors ... will push the Chilcotin grizzly bears over the threshold of extinction."

The province issued Taseko Mines Ltd. an environmental assessment certificate in January, but the federal panel decision has yet to be announced. The project would kill Fish Lake and Little Fish Lake, requiring the mine to provide alternative habitat as compensation.

Environment Minister Barry Penner and Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Minister Blair Lekstrom endorsed the $800-million project.

The Xeni Gwet'in First Nation is opposed to the mine. Chief Marilyn Baptise could not be reached to comment.

McCrory, whose list of clients have included the province and municipal governments, said in the report that his findings are based on 40 years of grizzly bear and wildlife experience combined with literature on conservation biology and cumulative effects as well as studies on mine-grizzly interaction.

Both the Valhalla Wilderness Society and Friends of Nemaiah Valley supported McCrory's research in the area.

In his report, McCrory criticizes Taseko for minimizing the environmental impact of its development.

"By using a scientifically narrow habitat area-based approach as their ecological tape measure and ignoring relevant scientific literature on cumulative effects, Taseko was able to conclude that their development will have no significant impacts on grizzly bears and other wildlife...."

He warned that "any mining company could use the same ... approach for other mine developments in the same area and arrive at the same deceptive conclusion that there would be no significant effects on wildlife. This is highly misleading."

Taseko vice-president for corporate affairs Brian Battison could not be reached to comment.

McCrory noted that studies farther south in B.C. have shown the negative impact of motorized traffic on grizzlies along the Duffey Lake Road "such that resident female grizzly bears have become extirpated north of this road and south of Anderson Lake."

He described the grizzly bear population in the West Chilcotin region and South Chilcotin Ranges (site of Taseko's mine proposal) as the largest residual dryland population left in the Coast Ranges foothills of western North America. Their diet includes salmon, whitebark pine nuts and wild potatoes.

The population surrounding the Taseko mine site is down to about 100 animals.

Click here for the Vancouver Sun link.

TAKE ACTION

To sign a petition - supported by RAVEN - to protect Teztan Biny, please go to http://www.protectfishlake.ca

To send a message to federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice that this Schedule 2 exemption in the Fisheries Act must be closed, write to: Minister@ec.gc.ca


 

Beautiful Destruction - Canadian Photographer Louis Helbig's tar sands exposé

Wednesday Jun 09, 2010
  Louis Helbig’s Birds Eye View of the Tar Sands


Photo by Louis Helbig - Removing the overburden.

From the website Terra Informa:

Louis Helbig is an Ottawa-based artist/photographer specializing in aerials. He is a commercial pilot and a self-taught photographer whose work has been exhibited and published in Canada and internationally. For his latest exhibition, he has taken on the monumental task of documenting the Tar Sands from the air in northern Alberta. Drawing nation-wide and international praise and admonishment for his latest and biggest project titled Beautiful Destruction – Alberta Tar Sands Aerial Photographs, Louis intends to stimulate largely absent Canadian public debate on the world’s largest industrial development located in our own backyard.

Louis’ exhibition Beautiful Destruction is currently being shown at the Rivoli (334 Queen St. West, Toronto) until July 8, 2010. It is also being showcased this weekend at the New Art Festival, Central Park (Glebe), Ottawa on Saturday & Sunday June 5th & 6th from 10AM-5P. In addition, it will be shown at the Ottawa City Hall Art Gallery, Ottawa, for the 2010 Exhibition Season, from July 23 to Sept 26, 2010. Some of his Tar Sands photos will also be part of a feature in the July issue of Readers’ Digest, which reaches about 1 million people.


 

Save Fish Lake! Sierra Club of BC

Friday Jun 04, 2010
  It doesn’t get any better than this: a clear blue lake teeming with rainbow trout, surrounded by lush forest providing an abundance of game, berries and medicinal plants.

To the Tsilhqot’in Nation, Fish Lake is a sacred place that has sustained them for generations.

To the Taseko mining company, it’s an answer to a very different prayer: a cheap dump site for acid tailings from the proposed Prosperity gold-copper mine.

Shenanigans like this used to be prohibited by the Fisheries Act – until it was amended in 2002 to allow lakes and other freshwater bodies to be re-classified as “tailings impoundment areas”.

Another twist to this sorry tale came in late May when the federal government tabled the budget bill, known as Bill C-9. Obscured in this huge and complex document were provisions aimed at gutting the federal Environmental Assessment Act. Proposed rules will grant the federal environment minister power to reduce the scope of reviews and put many infrastructure projects on an exemption list. Most shockingly, they would allow the government to avoid a full environmental assessment by breaking up major projects into smaller pieces – in direct contradiction of a recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling.

The legislation could be passed in early June.

Communities across Canada are fighting back to protect their life-sustaining water resources.

Watch Blue Gold, a short movie about the Tsilquot'in fight for Fish Lake (Tetzan Biny).

Watch a YouTube video of Tse Keh Ney elders telling the story of how they saved Amazay Lake near Smithers.

If you are concerned about Fish Lake and/or the devastation allowed by the gutting federal environmental protections, please write to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.


 

Fish-bearing lakes to be destroyed to become tailings ponds: CoC to sue feds - Vancouver Sun

Friday Jun 04, 2010
 
Council of Canadians to sue federal government over Fisheries Act amendment


By Tiffany Crawford, Vancouver Sun

More than a dozen fish-bearing lakes across Canada, including one near Williams Lake, could be destroyed because of a legal loophole intended to allow mining companies to use dead lakes for dumping waste, says the Council of Canadians.

The organization will launch a legal challenge today seeking to overturn Schedule 2, an amendment to the Fisheries Act that allows mining companies to dump toxic waste in lakes and rivers by reclassifying them as “tailings impoundment areas.”

That means companies can strip lakes of their normal habitat and use them to stockpile mine tailings, large piles of crushed rock and chemicals left over after metals have been extracted.

Council chair Maude Barlow said details of the lawsuit against the federal government, which will be filed in an Ottawa court, will be released today at a news conference in Ottawa.

“I can say that we believe the amendment to the Fisheries Act violates the original intent of the act itself and although the challenge is coming from a Newfoundland legal team, it is Schedule 2 itself that we are challenging,” said Barlow, a former United Nations senior adviser on water.

The amendment to the act was introduced by the Liberals in 2002 and was originally intended for companies to use already dead lakes that had been historically used for mining waste.

Then in 2006, the Conservatives used the loophole to approve the destruction of two healthy lakes in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Under the Fisheries Act, it is against the law to harm fish-bearing waters.

The council argues the Fisheries Act is mandated to protect Canada’s water bodies and an amendment should not be allowed to violate the act as a whole.

As is its custom, Environment Canada won’t comment on a legal challenge, but said Thursday that storing tailings in lakes is not permitted unless there has been an environmental assessment.

The federal agency addressed the legal disparity — between the law prohibiting harm to fish-bearing lakes and the amendment allowing their destruction — by saying that before a lake is destroyed, companies must prove that dumping waste in a fresh water body “makes the most environmental, technical and socio-economic sense.”

Companies must develop a habitat compensation plan to ensure there is no net loss of fish habitat as the result of the approval of a tailings impoundment area, said Brigitte Lemay, a media spokeswoman for Environment Canada, in an e-mail.

There are five fish-bearing lakes that have been reclassified by both levels of government and at least another dozen under consideration. (A proposal must go through environmental assessments by the provincial government and then the federal government.)

Ironically, one of the lakes under threat is called Fish Lake.

Located about 125 kilometres southwest of Williams Lake, the mountain lake is home to about 85,000 rainbow trout.

Vancouver-based Taseko Mines received environmental approval from the province in January for its proposed Prosperity copper and gold mine on the traditional territory of the Tsilhqot’in First Nations.

The approval was contingent on fulfilling 103 commitments — including the creation of an artificial lake as a replacement for the destruction of Fish Lake.

Brian Battison, Taseko’s vice-president of corporate affairs, said the plan is to transport “some of the fish” from Fish Lake to the new one.

“Our proposal is to build a new lake in the same watershed and it will be larger and slightly deeper,” said Battison, adding the company would also introduce larger fish to the artificial lake for sport fishing.

“The that are there now are small and unhealthy. Out of the loss of one lake you get a new lake and the opportunity for enhanced fishing in the region.”

Environment Canada said it is more environmentally sound to destroy a natural lake than build a tailings pond because tailings can release acidic drainage when they are exposed to air, which can pollute nearby lakes and streams. The agency said underwater storage prevents acidic drainage, a reaction that can occur when sulphides in the rock acidify the water.

“In some cases, use of a natural water body may provide the best storage option to ensure that the tailings are stored in a safe, controlled way, as it may have fewer risks of engineering failure than on-land storage under water in some cases,” said Lemay.

A federal environment panel review process on the Prosperity mine proposal wrapped up last weekend.

The panel will write a report to be finished by July 2. The report then goes to Minister of Environment Jim Prentice for a decision.

Critics of the mine say the destruction of Fish Lake — considered sacred by the Tsilhqot’in First Nations— could also harm salmon in the Fraser River if the chemicals leak into the Taseko River, which is a major salmon run into the Fraser River system via the Chilko and Chilcotin rivers.

“Fish Lake is connected to an existing water system that is connected to the Fraser River. How many more hits can the Fraser take?” said Barlow.



Follow this link to read more.




 

First Nations chiefs: We will defend the land - Williams Lake Tribune

Thursday May 13, 2010
 
Byline: Erin Hitchcock

Aboriginal leaders are vowing to do whatever it takes to stop Taseko Mines Ltd.’s proposed Prosperity Mine from being built.

“We will fearlessly carry on the proud legacy of our ancestors,” says Tsi Del Del (Alexis Creek) Chief Percy Guichon. “The Tsilhqot’in will continue the fight to protect our land with whatever means necessary.”

Guichon notes that “whatever means necessary” doesn’t include violence, and would instead include legal action, building alliances with other First Nations and environmental groups, and keeping the pressure on the federal government to turn the mine project down.

“I think we have to exhaust those means before any other action is taken.”

He notes it’s too early to say if there would be roadblocks if the project is approved and says such action would be up to the people.

“If the process doesn’t work for you or legal means don’t work for you or other forms of persuasion (don’t work), what people usually resort to is roadblocks, but it’s too early to say. … I’d like to take things a step at a time and stay positive. You’ve always got to keep your options open.”

He says he feels “very positive” about what the panel’s report will say.

“I think they heard loud and clear what the Tsilhqot’in Nation view on the mine is,” he says, adding that many others are in support of the Tsilhqot’in’s view and professional advisors and biologists spoke at the federal panel review hearings about their opposition to the mine.

The federal panel reviewing the project has a deadline of July 2 to present a report to the federal environment minister, who will then make the report public.

The federal government and responsible authorities, which have no deadline to make a decision, would then decide whether to approve the mine.

If it gets approval, the gold-copper mine project would be built about 125 kilometres southwest of Williams Lake at Fish Lake (Teztan Biny), which would be drained and replaced with a new lake as part of Taseko’s fish compensation plan.

“Just because the panel hearings are complete does not mean it is done,” Guichon says. “We all look forward to the report from the panel in 60 days.”

“This is far from over,” says Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs.

“The federal panel review process is representative of a minor skirmish. The final battle may take place on the land itself.”

Phillip says Taseko’s proposed artificial lake is a “corporate-branded aquarium,” as its temperatures would need to be artificially controlled, and is “an absolute preposterous idea.”

He says the panel hearings were frustrating since the panel wouldn’t look at Tsilhqot’in jurisdiction, control, and influence over the Tsilhqot’in’s traditional territories and their unextinguished aboriginal rights and title.

While the mine site is not located in an area that the William Case found may be subject to aboriginal title, Phillip says that doesn’t detract from the fact that the rights and title are unceded and unextinguished.

“If we cannot rely on the courts, and we cannot rely on the fundamentally flawed environmental assessment processes, then the only thing left is for us is to defend the land itself,” Phillip says, adding that while it’s not known yet how the land will be defended, he says possible defense could come in the form of roadblocks, physically stopping Taseko from building the mine, and closing the area off to others. He notes, however, it all depends on the circumstances.

Phillip notes that in February, the Okanagan Indian Band set up a camp blockade near Bourleau Lake to stop Tolko Industries from harvesting trees in the Browns Creek area.

The courts later handed down an enforcement order to remove the band members, but they have still refused to leave.

“It’s just a different set of circumstances, a different place in the province, but it’s the same issue. … If we get arrested, we get arrested. It’s another day at the office. We will continue our opposition. … And it’s the same with the proposed destruction of Teztan Biny. The Tsilhqot’in people have said it’s not going to happen. We can’t allow it to happen.”

Click here to read the full article.




 

Teztan Biny stocks or Taseko stocks? - TNG News Release

Monday May 10, 2010
 


PRESS RELEASE
For immediate release
May 10, 2010
Teztan Biny Stocks or Taseko Mines Ltd Stocks?
Federal Panel concludes public hearings that will decide fate of sacred lake

Williams Lake - The Tsilhqot’in people came out in force to defend their lands, their sacred waters and the future of their culture before the Federal Panel conducting the environmental assessment of Taseko Mines Ltd.’s proposed Prosperity Gold-Copper Mine.

Tsilhqot’in participation in the Panel’s hearings, which started on World Water Day, March 22 and came to close on May 3, 2010, was emotional and overwhelming. Hearings in the Tsilhqot’in communities were packed with concerned Tsilhqot’in members, from children as young as 5 or 6 to Tsilhqot’in elders in their 80s, imploring the Panel not to support a project that requires the complete destruction of Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) – a sacred and ceremonial site for the Tsilhqot’in people and a highly productive lake fishery and hunting ground that has sustained Tsilhqot’in people for generations.

The Panel heard from many Tsilhqot’in children, elders and educators that Teztan Biny is actively used as a “traditional school” for passing down culture and knowledge to the next generations. Linda Smith, like many Tsilhqot’in members, explained to the Panel that "Fish Lake is a spiritual sanctuary, a spiritual centre of the Tsilhqot'in." In the words of Cecil Grinder, "the wildlife, the fish, the birds, trees, plants and berries and so forth are a major source of our food diet. The majority of the Tsilhqot'in people depend on this food source.”

The Panel heard speaker after speaker describe the potential loss of Teztan Biny for an open-pit mine as unfathomable. In the words of Geraldine Williams, “Fish Lake is my family's home land. If destroyed there is going to be so much pain that cannot be cured. It is going to be like one huge poison.”

“The most revealing sessions were the technical hearings, where experts and even government regulators confirmed our concerns and some of the worst fears for our communities,” said Marilyn Baptiste, Chief of the Xeni Gwet’in, one of the six bands that comprise the Tsilhqot’in Nation.

In fact, key federal departments presented information to the Panel about fundamental problems with the project that could lead to significant environmental impacts even after the mitigation measures proposed by Taseko Mines Ltd to date.

Environment Canada advised the Panel of its view that there were two alternative mining options that would leave Fish Lake intact, but Taseko Mines Ltd had rejected these alternatives for economic reasons that Environment Canada said could be overstated. Transport Canada told the Panel that the project would have significant adverse effects on navigation (including complete loss of access by the Tsilhqot’in to a sacred island in Teztan Biny for traditional ceremonies) and that Taseko had not presented any proposal at all to mitigate these impacts.

Officials from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) informed the Panel that the project failed to meet the basic requirements of its “no net loss” policy for the destruction of fish habitat. They highlighted several risks with Taseko Mines Ltd’s plan to construct a replacement fish reservoir (“Prosperity Lake”), and stated that even if successful, this reservoir would not come close to replacing the highly productive fish habitat that would be destroyed by the project, including Fish Lake, Little Fish Lake and associated streams. DFO’s views were confirmed by Dr. Gordon Hartman, a pre-eminent fish biologist, who advised the Panel that the chances of successfully replacing the fish habitat that would be destroyed by this project were exceedingly remote.

Dr. Ann Maest, an internationally renowned expert and the main geochemist consultant to the US Environmental Protection Agency, informed the Panel that fundamental problems with Taseko Mines Ltd’s modelling meant that potential water quality impacts were drastically understated, and that water treatment would be necessary, perhaps forever. Dr. Kevin Morin, an authority on acid-rock drainage, questioned whether water treatment would protect ground and surface water in this case, and predicted contamination from the mine site into adjacent water bodies, including the Taseko River, a productive salmon fishery upstream from the Fraser River.

Tsilhqot’in leaders and members have vowed to build from the momentum of the Panel hearings to save Teztan Biny. “We will fearlessly carry on the proud legacy of our ancestors,” stated Percy Guichon, Chief Tsi Del Del (Alexis Creek Indian Band). “The Tsilhqot’in will continue the fight to protect our land with whatever means necessary. Just because the panel hearings are complete does not mean it is done, we all look forward to the report from the Panel in 60 days.”

“This is far from over,” declared Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs. “The Federal Panel Review process is representative of a minor skirmish. The final battle may take place on the land itself.”

- 30 -



For further information, please contact:

Chief Marilyn Baptiste, Xeni Gwet’in First Nations Government
(250) 394-7023, ext. 202




 

Panel hears about alternative means - Williams Lake Tribune

Thursday Apr 29, 2010
  RAVEN note:  The federal environmental review panel heard that Fish Lake does NOT need to be destroyed!


Environment Canada views all three mining development plans considered by Taseko Mines Ltd. for the Prosperity project “potentially viable,” the federal panel reviewing the project heard Monday as part of its topic-specific hearing sessions in Williams Lake.

“Mine Development Plan 3 would have the greatest overall immediate environmental impact and potentially the lowest long-term environmental risk,” said Charles Dumaresq of the Mining and Processing Division of Enviornment Canada. “Mine Development Plan 3 would be the least costly.”

Mine Development Plan 3 is the proposal approved by the provincial government and submitted to the federal panel.

The other two plans considered by Taseko — narrowed down from a total of 15 proposal sites for environmental and economic reasons — do not use Fish Lake.

Option 1 would consist of disposal of tailings as a slurry with co-disposal of the potentially acid generating waste rock in the tailings management facility within the upper Tete Angela Creek valley, using two dams.

The open pit would be located just north of Fish Lake with the milling facility located mid-way between the open pit and Tete Angela creek.

Option 2 would see the tailings management facility at upper Fish Creek, with containment provided by the natural contours within upper Fish Creek, using three dams. The milling facility would be located southeast of the open pit just east of Fish Lake.

Scott Jones, Taseko’s vice-president of engineering, said one option would cost $350 million more than the proposed option, and the other $350 million more, making them “fatally flawed” in terms of economics. All three options, he said, had the same socio-economic impact.

Panel member Bill Klassen asked Jones how Taseko determines cost is excessive.

“$350 and $450 million more, that pushes the project into the realm of we wouldn’t pull the trigger on that project, we will not execute that project,” Jones said. “And we don’t believe anybody else would, either.”

Asked about 17 days of hearings in First Nations communities, where the panel heard widespread opposition to the use of Fish Lake, and whether that changed Taseko’s view of option 1, Jones said it depends on how much weight one lends to socio-economic and other impacts.

In any case, he said, options 1 and 2 were still flawed economically.

Tony Pearse, representing the Tsilhqot’in National Government (TNG), said First Nations should have been involved in alternative assessments for the project.

“First Nations, had they been part of that process, would have elevated the loss of Fish Lake to ...(a) fatal flaw,” he said.

Taseko responded that different weighting — which had been studied a great deal in the 1990s — would have made no difference in the outcome of the assessment.

“TNG was invited to participate in 1998 as a member of the working group and as a member of the project committee,” Taseko’s manager of environmental assessment Rod Bell-Irving said. “If they chose not to participate, that’s a matter of record. ”

“The panel should take into account the environmental impacts of each alternative, including the characteristics of the habitat that would be impacted, the immediate environmental impacts of each alternative compared with the long-term environmental risks, and the environmental impacts and risks of each alternative compared with the economic and social costs and benefits of each of the Mine Development Plans,” Dumaresq told the panel.


WL Tribune Reader comment:
harrydagger - "In an effort to provide balanced reporting for readers would you please post comments from Dr. Kevin Morin and Dr. Ann Maest on the mine plan presented. Additionally it should be noted that FN were involved until Taseko consulted with MoE Minister Penner to change this process after the Kemess II application became too onerous to undertake. Both the mine and the Province pushed the FN aside. Things haven't changed much since the Chilcotin War. Then it was surveyors, now it is miners. Do you guys have any idea how bad this looks?"


 

B.C. natives fear violence over mine - CBC News

Tuesday Apr 27, 2010
 
First Nations chiefs in B.C.'s southern Interior say thousands of their bands' members will use any means they can to stop a major mine in the Chilcotin region.

An open-pit copper gold mine to be dug by the B.C company Taseko Mines Ltd. has been proposed for the Nemiah Valley, about 160 kilometres southwest of Williams Lake.

If the $1-billion project — which Taseko has named the Prosperity Mine — gets the green light from the federal government, one First Nations spokesman predicts lawsuits, protests, roadblocks and worse.

"We're peaceful people," said Ahanam Chief Joe Alphonse. "But if it comes to that, we're not intimidated at making a stand. There's no holding our membership back and I'm really fearful of that."

Stone Chief Ivor Myers told CBC News that extracted resources are "stolen property," and said he also feared potential violence.

"I don't want to see something like that where there's confrontation with the military. I don't want to see any bloodshed."

Myers says the mine would desecrate sacred land and pour toxic tailings into Fish Lake. "This is a sacred site for our members," he said. "Our water is our No. 1 resource. It's worth more than gold."

B.C. has approved project

The Federal Environmental Assessment Panel began its final week of environmental hearings in Williams Lake on Monday.

A Taseko spokesman acknowledged at Monday's hearings that pouring tailings into Fish Lake will kill tens of thousands of trout, chinook and steelhead, but argued it's the only way the mine can be built.

Vice president Scott Jones said many environmental options were considered but had to be rejected.

"There was still only one economically viable solution," Jones said.

The panel will have until June 30 to send its recommendations to the federal government for approval.

The mine already has environmental approval from the B.C. government.

Many businesses and politicians in the Williams lake area support the project, saying laid-off mill workers are eager for the hundreds of jobs in mining and construction the mine would create.

With files from the CBC's Betsy Trumpener

Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/british-columbia/story/2010/04/26/bc-taseko-mine-environmental-hearing.html#socialcomments#ixzz0mKTidSBB

Click here for a pdf copy of the story with comments.




 

Everyone's downstream - The New Internationalist April 2010 Issue

Wednesday Apr 21, 2010
  The tar sands infrastructure straddles North America, and is fed by finance from all over the world. But its global reach is provoking global resistance.

'Legal action is the only way'

When the ancestors of the Beaver Lake Cree signed a treaty with Canada in 1876, they ceded vast tracts of land in Alberta in exchange for continued rights to hunt, fish and gather plants and medicines, as they had always done. In recent years, the large-scale deforestation, wildlife disturbance and pollution resulting from tar sands developments have been eroding these treaty rights and now threaten the community's traditional way of life.

So in 2008, they launched a legal challenge aimed at halting the wholesale destruction of their ancestral lands. It cites 17,000 infringements by oil companies of the Beaver Lake Cree's constitutionally protected treaty rights and seeks injunctions against new developments.

Chief Al Lameman is determined: "The governments of Canada and Alberta have made a lot of promises to our people and we intend to see those promises kept. Governments and industry ignore our concerns. This is our home. This is where we live. We have a responsibility to our children to see that these lands remain inhabitable. A legal action is the only way to make our voices heard."

This could have huge implications for Shell, BP, ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips and Total, all of which have actual or planned developments within the Beaver Lake Cree's ancestral lands. But if successful, all new tar sands projects could be brought to a halt. The case, which is financially supported by the Co-operative, is being led by lawyer Jack Woodward. He believes that: "Canada's aboriginal people will be the ones that rescue Canada from international embarrassment and rescue all the people of the world from the worst effects of tar sands exploitation."

Find out more and donate to the Beaver Lake Cree's legal challenge.

For a copy of the article, with photo of Chief Al, click here.



 

'You're going to destroy us too' - Williams Lake Tribune

Thursday Apr 08, 2010
 
Byline: Erin Hitchcock

Prosperity mine panel hearings continued in Nemiah Valley last Wednesday, with presentations from numerous Xeni Gwet’in Nation members.

At the Xeni Gwet’in Community Band Hall March 31, Sean Nixon, legal counsel for the Tsilhqot’in National Government, told the federal panel reviewing the gold-copper mine project that the central position of the Tsilhqot’in National Government and Xeni Gwet’in Nation is that the mine would cause the permanent destruction of Fish Lake (Teztan Biny) and area, which would cause a “significant cultural loss for the Tsilhqot’in.”

“It would be a significant impact on their current use of the area, on cultural heritage in the area that could not be adequately mitigated through the fish compensation measure,” Nixon said.
If approved by the federal government, Prosperity Mine would be built about 125 kilometres southwest of Williams Lake at Fish Lake (Teztan Biny), which would be drained in order to build the mine.

Grade 5-7 students from the Naghtaneqed Elementary Junior Secondary School performed a play, Saving Fish Lake, for the panel to show how and why they care about Fish Lake.
Grade 9 student Leyton Setah said the mine will wreck his food sources.
“It will wreck our water source and it will wreck our life,” Leyton said. “Our life will be ruined because we wouldn’t be able to hunt our fish and that’s our way of life. Why would you guys do this to us? We never ruined your life.”

Shari Hughson, community health nurse for Nemiah Valley, said the Xeni Gwet’in people are rebuilding their lives and working hard to find a lifestyle that fits their beliefs and goals of self-sufficiency and a connection the land.

“ … The federal government needs to understand that anything they do or allow into this community that does not fit with the Xeni Gwet’in plan for recovery will probably damage the one community that could be the model for traditional First Nation success,” Hughson said.
She added that if the mine were to go through there would be metal health impacts due to the loss of territorial land that was a home to some communities and is a traditional and ongoing source of plants, animals, and fish, and has a historical and archaeological significance with pit houses present and is in a spiritual area.

She said it would “create considerable grief for some community members here.”
It would also, she said, lead to the loss of self-determination and the loss of control of part of their territory that wold have played a role in becoming more self-sufficient.

Alex Lulua said he has been hunting for all of his life and doesn’t know if he will be able to any longer if the mines goes through. “And I don’t know if I’ll be hunting anymore if those animals get into that tailings pond or that tailings pond does leak and go down the stream into the rivers,” Lulua said, adding that he still lives off the land. He added that medicinal plants, such as Hellebore or “Indian medicine,” grow in the area and cure many sicknesses. “And yet you guys are going to destroy that. You’re going to destroy us too.”

Brian Battison, Taseko’s vice president of corporate affairs, responded to a previous undertaking regarding Mining, Your Future, and said the program is an initiative to help local people qualify for work in mining.

He said five objectives to support that goal include: helping the company meet its current and future employment needs; helping to maximize local employment opportunity, as it helps the company meet its first objective of earning respect, creating opportunity, and delivering value; designing the program using local input; building broad participation in the program; and encouraging First Nations participation in the program.

He noted that Taseko is a mining company and its expertise lies in mine-site operations.
“We are not a social service agency,” he said. “We are a mining company. And the program and the people must meet our needs.”

He said the provincial government, through its revenue sharing program, has pledged to share with local First Nations communities the revenue and mineral tax revenue generated by the mines, including Prosperity Mine.

Susie Setah said her parents taught her at a young age how to live off the land, hunt, fish, gather berries, and collect medicines. Now, as manager of the Charlene Williams Daycare, she teaches children those skills. While showing photos to the panel, Setah said she takes the children to lakes, including Fish Lake, to learn how to hunt and pick acorns and berries.
“And we name the berries in the language so the kids can learn the names,” she added.

Sami-Joe Perry, a Xeni Gwet’in First Nation member, said her grandparents have hunted and camped along Fish Lake long before she was born. “It does not take a scientist to figure out the damage it (Prosperity) will do to the land,” Perry said. “We see our lands as sacred and valuable as it is. We do not look at our trees, minerals, or waters as money. We look at them as Mother Earth’s gifts to help us heal, live and protect.”

April William said mining is hurting her people. “What if I was rich, really rich and I came and bought the mine and took over everything and shut everything down and took your guys’ jobs away, your ability to pay for your mortgage, you car, everything?” William asked. “That’s what you guys are doing towards us, doing that to our land, and we all stand up here trying to show you and trying to make you guys hear us, what our land is to us.”

To read more presentations and to read full transcripts of the hearing proceedings, visit the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency website. Click Canadian Environmental Agency Registry and type in Prosperity.



 

Public hearings on mine proposal will include Tsilhqot'in documentary - The Tyee

Tuesday Mar 23, 2010
 

Byline: Andrew MacLeod

Taseko Mines Ltd. has failed in its bid to prevent a documentary about the Tsilhqot'in people's connection to Teztan Biny, or Fish Lake, from being shown at a public hearing on a mine proposal southwest of Williams Lake.

The federal review panel this morning dismissed Taseko's motion that last week asked that the film Blue Gold: The Tsilhqot'in Fight for Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) not be shown at the public hearing, said Jay Nelson, a Victoria lawyer acting for the TNG, in an email. “It held that its rules of procedure did not prohibit presenting information in this form,” he said.

A lawyer acting for Taseko did not respond to a message by posting time. The submission to the panel said Blue Gold is a “propaganda film, produced to influence the opinions or behaviour of people, by providing deliberately biased content in an emotional context,” the Tyee reported.

The film's director, Susan Smitten, said she laughed when she heard the company's lawyer had called the film “propaganda.” 

“The film's power comes in its authenticity,” she said. It was made as a way to help the Tsilhqot'in people express what the threatened lake means to them, she said. “They come from a position of love.”

Views of Blue Gold tripled the day after Taseko asked that the film be kept out of the hearing, she said. Filmed in two days with a budget under $10,000, it has been watched by people around the world, she said. 

The film can be seen on the Hook or on Vimeo. It will be shown during the panel's evening hearings on March 24.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. 

To read comments posted on The Tyee's site, click here. 

Blue Gold can be viewed on RAVEN - click here for the link. 


 


 

Tsilhqot'in chiefs protest Prosperity mine - Williams Lake Tribune

Thursday Feb 18, 2010
 


By Erin Hitchcock
Published February 16, 2010 8:00 am

Dozens of protesters held up signs on Highway 97 between McLeese Lake and MacAllister Thursday afternoon to show thier opposition to the destruction of Fish Lake should Prosperity mine be built.

Aong those protesting were Xeni Gwet'in Chief Marilyn Baptiste, ?Esdilagh Cheif Bernie Elkins, Tl'esqox Chief Francis Laceese, Ulkatcho First Nation Chief Allen Louie, and Lhtako Dene Nation Chief Geronimo Squinas.

They, as well as members from First Nations communities and their supporters, displayed messages such as "Our lakes and our rivers are our life. Our elders won't gather at a mine site. Our pristine lakes are the heritage for our children and grandchildren. You know you hit rock bottom when you're a miner," and "Water is more precious than gold."  

They were also protesting the B.C. government's recent decision to grant Taseko Mines Ltd. an environmental assessment certificate for the mine following the provincial review process that was completed. 

A federal panel is still reviewing the mine project and will hold public hearings beginning March 22 in Williams Lake.

If built, the copper-gold mine would be build about 125 kilometres southwest of Williams Lake at Fish Lake (Teztan Biny), which First Nations chiefs say is sacred and in the Tsilhqot'in declaration of rights area.

For the full article, please click here.  

For video from the protest, click here.

A short film entitled Blue Gold, The Tsilhqot'in Fight for Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) will soon be available for viewing on this site.  A public screening will take place in Victoria, BC on March 22nd at 7pm at the David Lam Auditorium, University of Victoria.  

Check our events section for details.



 


 

All that glitters is not a gold mine - Vancouver Sun Op-Ed

Tuesday Feb 16, 2010
 
By Marilyn Baptiste and Anne Marie Sam, Vancouver Sun February 16, 2010

The recent rush to promote mining as the saviour of the B.C. economy is an understandable, but dangerous and indefensible trend that serves neither British Columbians nor investors.
Yes, The Vancouver Sun's Jan. 26 editorial did at least say there are problems, but its suggested solution was not to deal with the real root issues, but rather that we become more like Chile. It endorsed doing whatever the industry wants.

For the most part, however, coverage has been artificially positive. Simply stating there is a boom and ignoring all the facts does not make a boom. Nor does it increase the chances that there will be one in the foreseeable future.

There is a temptation to use the 2010 Vancouver Olympics spotlight to sell B.C. as an investment magnet, and if this involved delivering a full and balanced message to would-be investors, okay. To send highly misleading messages is quite another matter.

Consider the recent giddy coverage. First there was the Federal Environmental Assessment Review approval of Terrane Metal's proposed Mount Milligan low-grade gold and copper project at Shus Nadloh on Nak'azdli first nation traditional lands. This followed provincial environmental assessment approval, and news coverage made it sound like nothing could stop the mine.

The articles ignored Nak'azdli's news releases, its appeal against the provincial approval (due to be heard in March), and its application for a judicial review of the federal approval.
When main backer Goldcorp announced a day after Nak'azdli filed for a judicial review that it would not exercise its option to partner in Terrane's mine, this story was down-played. Again, no mention was made of the legal challenges.

Interestingly, Goldcorp's CEO stated in a keynote address to last week's AME BC Roundup that one of three things his company looks for is "safe jurisdiction." Legal uncertainty over the future of disputed proposed projects on first nations territorial lands does not offer safe jurisdiction. Nor does it help to manage costs, which was the second factor cited. (High-grade ores was the third.)

Then came coverage of the province's environmental assessment review approval of Taseko Mines Ltd.'s proposed Prosperity Mine on Xeni Gwet'in traditional lands in the heart of Tsilhqot'in National Government territories. This mine would kill the pristine and culturally and ecologically important Fish Lake by turning it into a massive toxic tailing pond.  The implication was this mine was a done deal. It was noted the company hopes to start land clearing and road building in the spring.


The facts tell a different story. A separate federal environmental review has yet to be conducted and its hearings are weeks, if not months, away. The Xeni Gwet'in was not part of the provincial review, but is part of the federal one. Meanwhile the Tsilhquot'in has a court case underway to establish fishing rights and protect Fish Lake.

This is surely information with which investors should be provided.

The Sun recently ran a guest column by Gavin Dirom, president and CEO of the Association for Mineral Exploration British Columbia, which again promoted both the above projects as proof that mining is on the way back after 13 years of no major new metals mines being opened in B.C. It did not mention first nations, or the need to work with them to end the uncertainty that plagues the industry in B.C. Nor did it get into environmental impacts, or mention that nearly 1,200 closed or abandoned mines continue to pollute our waters and lands.

Instead it promised a rosy picture of future great wealth and prosperity. The question is, for whom? The $500 billion that Dirom says has been generated by mining over the past 150 years have come from first nations lands and resources that were never ceded through any treaty. What first nations have got out of it is abandoned and polluting mines, and they are worried this could be all they will get out of any future mines in the long term.

First Nations Women Seeking Responsible Mining supports the BC First Nations Mining and Energy Council and other first nations leaders in the struggle to bring urgently needed reform to mining legislation in B.C.

Anne Marie Sam and Chief Marilyn Baptiste are members of BC's First Nations Women Seeking Responsible Mining.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

 

Olympics Aren't the Only Games Being Played for Gold in BC

Wednesday Feb 10, 2010
 
Investors not being given the facts about mining investment risks 

VANCOUVER, Feb. 10 /CNW Telbec/ - As the media spotlight shines on the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, a government-industry promotion is hiding the risks of investing in BC's mining industry, First Nations Women Advocating Responsible Mining warned today. 

"Crucial facts are being hidden and the global media attention generated by the Olympics is being used to send a false message that BC is a sure gold medal bet for mining investors," said FNWARM member Chief Marilyn Baptiste of the Xeni Gwet'in First Nation

"After a 13-year new-mine drought fuelled by major court rulings on First Nations rights in BC, there now appears to be a campaign to pretend the legal duty to consult and accommodate First Nations no longer exists," added Nak'azdli First Nation councillor Anne Sam. 

The message is so one-sided that FNWARM members this week filed a BC Press Council complaint against the Vancouver Sun regarding recent articles that omitted known key facts to leave the impression that the provincial government's star mining projects no longer face serious obstacles and will create a huge revenue bonanza. 

In fact they face a number of serious obstacles. 

FNWARM is a group of First Nations women leaders from northern BC with a shared goal of promoting responsible mining that respects First Nations rights and cultures and the environment. Their goals include reform of the free-entry access system and environmental assessment review processes to reduce areas of conflict and uncertainty. 

"We all face serious attempts to force mining projects on us," said former Lake Babine First Nations Chief Betty Patrick. "We want to work with government and companies to find responsible and respectful solutions to mining impasses in BC, but we are repeatedly faced with attempts to bulldozer us into submission." 

Soda Creek Chief Bev Sellars said: "We are shocked by the extent of the steps now being taken to push ahead with mine projects on Xeni Gwet'in and Nak'azdli First Nation traditional lands."
The respective projects are Taseko Mines Ltd's Prosperity gold mine and Terrane Metals' proposed low grade gold/copper Mt. Milligan mine - which are being heavily promoted by the provincial government and media as the vanguard of a new BC mining boom. 

Both are threatening to start land clearing and road building in a matter of weeks, even though their projects could be halted by reviews or legal challenges that will take months or longer to complete. 

FNWARM hopes to balance the mining hype by providing investors with facts that they have a right to know in order to make informed decisions. For example:
- The future cannot be guaranteed for projects that proceed against
First Nations objections on their traditional lands, which cover the
entire province.

- The vast majority of BC First Nations have never signed treaties or
ceded any territory or resources;

- The courts have repeatedly established that - pending resolution of
their title and rights - these First Nations must be consulted and
accommodated;

- Taseko's proposed Prosperity mine - which would turn an important
pristine lake into a toxic tailing pond - still faces a federal
environment review. Its future is also entangled in two major court
cases involving First Nations rights;

- Terrane Metals' proposed Mt. Milligan Mine is still in the courts
defending against legal challenges to its provincial and federal
environmental assessment approvals. A provincial hearing is scheduled
for March. An application for a federal judicial review was filed in
early January - one day before mining giant Goldcorp declined to
partner on the mine;

- Any money spent on premature work on the mines will be at the
companies' own financial risk, and they will be accountable for
environmental destruction should the projects be stopped.

 
For further information:
Media inquiries: Anne Marie Sam - (011) 250-649-8284, anne.sam@telus.net


 

 

Speakers tell tales and trials of tar sands - The Driftwood

Wednesday Jan 20, 2010
 
Jack Woodward, Chief Al Lameman, Alan Bibby and James Hoggan keep issue in the news

Byline: Meghan Howcroft

A large group of Salt Spring Islanders received a wake-up call last Saturday night at the Truth, Trials and Tar Sands event taking place at ArtSpring.

Sponsored by I-SEA, RAVEN (Respecting Aboriginal Values & Environmental Needs) and DeSmogBlog, the evening featured presentations by four Canadians making a difference in the fight against climate change: James Hoggan, PR executive and author of the book Climate Cover-Up; Alan Bibby, a local documentary filmmaker; Jack Woodward, the pre-eminent authority in Aboriginal law; and special guest Chief Al Lameman of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation.

At a time when Canada is mopping up its shame after an embarrassing display of broken promises at the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen, Canadians are at a critical junction when it comes to climate change action. Hoggan got right to the point. "Climate change is a story of public relations and the most widespread mis-information campaign... This is a story about greed and irresponsibility on an epic scale, deception and widespread media manipulation.”

For the full article, with comments by Chief Al Lameman and Jack Woodward, please click here.


 

Tsilhqot'in National Government denounces "rubber stamp" of approval from BCEAO for Taseko Mines project

Monday Jan 18, 2010
 
January 18, 2010, Williams Lake -- The Tsilhqot'in National Government denouced the BC Environmental Assessment Office (BCEAO) decision to grant an evnironmental assessment certificate (EA) to Taseko Mines Ltd. for a proposed massive mine at Teztan Biny (Fish Lake), an area where the Tsilhqot'in Nation holds proven Aboriginal hunting and trapping rights.

"We are disappointed but not surprised," said Chief Marilyn Baptiste, Xeni Gwet'in First Nation. "It has been clear from the outset that this is a rubber stamp exercise."  The Chief explained that the BCEAO has rushed to a decision based on the same record that an independent federal panel has deemed fundamentally deficient on key issues.

 One issue on which the proposed mine has been found deficient is current use of the area by First Nations for traditional purposes. The federal Panel has held that Taseko’s treatment of this issue is deficient and has extended First Nations the opportunity to provide this critical information directly at the public hearings to be held by the Panel.

“The BCEAO originally said it would attend these hearings and use the information generated there,” Chief Baptiste pointed out. “Then, over our objections, it rushes to this decision before the hearings can be held. This show how much BCEAO values First Nations concerns.”

“I find it ironic that the province claims it has done ‘due diligence’ in terms of consulting with First Nations,” stated Chief Ivor Myers, Yunesit’in (Stone) First Nation. “The Province rejected all of our efforts to meet with them to set up a consultation process that would work for our people and our communities. Despite government and company efforts to put a positive spin on this, we do not agree with the proposal. Investors should be aware that this project is not a done deal.” 

Please click here for the full release, including comments by Chief Fred Sam of the Nak'azdli Nation.


 

Aboriginal Group Uses Constitutional Challenge to Oppose Tar Sands - CJSW

Wednesday Dec 09, 2009
 
Jack Woodward is a lawyer representing the Beaver Lake Cree Nation in Lac La Biche. Woodward and the group are arguing that the Cree's constitutionally protected right to hunt and fish on that land has been obstructed by tar sands development in Alberta's North.  CJSW’s Joe Burima had a chance to speak with Mr. Woodward.

To hear the interview, please click here. 


On Friday November 27th, an event titled, "Tar Sands on Trial: The Beaver Lake Cree Fight Big Oil to save the Boreal" took place at Calgary's John Dutton Theatre. CJSW News' Sarah Thompson was on hand to record Jack Woodward's speech.

Tar Sands on Trial - part one (MP3 Format)

Tar Sands on Trial - part two (MP3 Format)



 

LIttle First Nations Band a Threat to the Oil Industry Says Former Harper Aide - EDI Weekly

Wednesday Dec 09, 2009
 

A special investigative report
by Derek Armstrong

A tiny First Nations band, the Beaver Lake Cree Nation, hopes to do what many international organizations such as Greenpeace and Sierra Club would love to accomplish: stop the Alberta tar sands.  

This impoverished little band of nine hundred is suing the government of Alberta for violating its treaty rights in developing the tar sands. The statement of claim lists more than 12,000 "developments," mostly individual leases granted to oil companies for forestry, road building, laying of seismic lines, drilling and SAGD development. All of these developments, the claim maintains, are infringements of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation's treaty rights and are therefore illegal and unconstitutional. 

(In context of the Copenhagen climate summit) 
While Copenhagen focuses on the future, the Beaver Lake Cree Nation's lawsuit highlights the ugly, immediate consequence of unbridled exploitation of the environment. They face the imminent, irrevocable destruction of the land that sustains their way of life. Climate change and CO2 levels hardly matter if their land and livelihood is already lost. It's a bit like telling someone on his deathbed with cancer that you hope to have a cure in ten years.

For the full article, click here. 

EDI Weekly:  www.ediweekly.com

 

Investment fund raises questions about Alberta tar sands - Reuters

Wednesday Dec 02, 2009
 


Cites Beaver Lake Cree Nation legal action as key liability for investors.

Byline: Matthew Berger

Alberta's sprawling tar sands region holds the second largest oil reserve in the world after Saudi Arabia, but investors lured by the promise of black gold should think twice about the environmental risks, a Canadian investment fund warns.

In a new report, Northwest & Ethical Investments LP describes how companies operating in the tar sands - including global giants BP, Shell and Total - are exposed to "litigious, regulatory, policy and social license risks."

Lawsuit Risks

One risk is Aboriginal rights litigation since oil sands producers operate in areas overlapping Aboriginal traditional territories.  The Beaver Lake Cree Nation has already filed a lawsuit, citing a treaty written into the Constitution then ensured they would be able to continue hunting, trapping and fishing on their ancestral lands.  The Cree are seeking an injunction to end the tar sands operations' destruction of those lands, damage to the wildlife, and fouling of the rivers.

To read the full article, click here

To read a summary of the Northwest & Ethical Investments report, click here. 
 






 


 

TNG Report raises Prosperity water concerns - Williams Lake Tribune

Thursday Nov 19, 2009
  Byline: Erin Hitchcock

A study prepared for the Tsilhqot'in National Government says Taseko Mines Ltd. underestimated the potential risk of the proposed Prosperity mine to surrounding lakes and rivers. Stratus Consulting concluded in its study that information provided to date “does not permit a reasoned evaluation of potential adverse effects to water quality, water quantity, fish and wildlife under variable conditions.”

As a result, the TNG is concerned about the future of salmon runs.

“This study raises the alarm,” says Xeni Gwet’in Chief Marilyn Baptiste. “As the traditional caretakers of these lands and waters, we have asked the Panel reviewing this project to demand more credible and accurate information from Taseko so we can properly understand the environmental and human health risks that we are facing.”

The report says Taseko’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the project “vastly underestimate[s] the uncertainties in site water balance.”

The report says Taseko has relied on limited data to predict or prepare for extreme weather events.
“After operations, they propose leaving their mine waste in place with no active controls,” the report says.

“One extreme weather event at any point in the future could lead to an uncontrolled release of mine waste, which could have severe adverse consequences for the trout and salmon fishery of the Taseko River.” The TNG says Taseko River flows into the Chilcotin River, which empties into the Fraser River.

Stratus Consulting’s report says that because of the known impacts of hard-rock mining, it is critical that
Taseko identifies reasonable potential effects and include short-term and long-term mitigation and management measures and monitoring in its mine proposal.

“This report makes it clear that we cannot rely on Taseko’s own assessment of the potential impacts of its project,” Baptiste says. “Since time immemorial our people have relied on the pristine waters of the
Teztan Biny watershed and the Taseko River as a source of life.”

Stratus Consulting undertook the hydrology review at the request of the TNG and the Williams Lake Indian Band.

Brian Battison, vice president of corporate affairs for Taseko Mines Ltd., wouldn’t comment on the report’s findings, but says Taseko will review and consider the report and its contents, conclusions, and its work.

For the full article, and to read comments by Amy Crook, Centre for Science in Public Participation, click here


 

TNG Media Release: Mining experts say Taseko has underestimated the potential risk of the proposed Prosperity Project to surrounding lakes and rivers

Thursday Nov 12, 2009
 
  TNG concerned for future of the salmon runs


Williams Lake, November 12, 2009 – A team of mining experts reviewing Taseko Mines Ltd.’s proposed Prosperity Gold-Copper Mine Project has concluded that the information provided to date “does not permit a reasoned evaluation of potential adverse effects to water quality, water quantity, fish and wildlife under variable conditions.”

“This study raises the alarm,” says Chief Marilyn Baptiste, Xeni Gwet’in First Nation. “As the traditional caretakers of these lands and waters, we have asked the Panel reviewing this Project to demand more credible and accurate information from Taseko so that we can properly understand the environmental and human health risks that we are facing.”

The study conducted by renowned Colorado-based Stratus Consulting concludes that Taseko’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Project “vastly underestimate[s] the uncertainties in site water balance.” The report notes that Taseko has relied on limited data to predict or prepare for extreme weather events: “After operations, they propose leaving their mine waste in place with no active controls. One extreme weather event at any point in the future could lead to an uncontrolled release of mine waste, which could have severe adverse consequences for the trout and salmon fishery of the Taseko River.” The Taseko River flows into the Chilcotin River, which empties into the Fraser River.

The Stratus report states that because of the known impacts of hardrock mining, it is critical that Taseko Mines identify reasonable potential effects and include short-term and long-term mitigation and management measures and monitoring in its mine proposal.

“This report makes it clear that we cannot rely on Taseko’s own assessment of the potential impacts of its Project,” states Chief Baptiste. “Since time immemorial our people have relied on the pristine waters of the Teztan Biny watershed and the Taseko River as a source of life.”

Stratus Consulting undertook the hydrology review at the request of both the Tsilhqot’in National Government (TNG) and the Williams Lake Indian Band.

The study comes on the heels of Taseko Mine Ltd.’s recent announcement to its investors of a 70% increase in the mineral reserves at Prosperity and an additional 13 years of proposed operation – extending the life of the mine from 20 to 33 years. Taseko stated in its November 2nd announcement the intention to “mine deeper, higher grade mineralization.” 

“Taseko is seeking approval for one project, while at the same time actively planning, and publicly announcing, a substantially expanded project,” says Loretta Williams, Teztan Biny Project Coordinator. “From our point of view, this looks like a classic ‘bait and switch.’ The public, and our people, deserve a full and proper assessment of the costs and benefits of the mine Taseko is actually proposing to operate.”

The three-member Panel conducting the federal environmental assessment of the proposed Prosperity Project has expressed similar concern. The Panel has requested clarification from Taseko as to whether its current EIS is sufficient to address the expanded project that Taseko recently announced.

- 30 -
 



For further information, please contact:
Loretta Williams, Teztan Biny Project Coordinator
TNG Communications Department
t. 250.392.3918, ext. 104
e. mining@tsilhqotin.ca

For technical information, please contact:
Amy Crook, Centre for Science in Public Participation
c. 250.896.3627


For a copy of the release, click here.  

For the Stratus Consulting report, click here.

 

Union of BC Indian Chiefs joins TNG in opposition to Taseko - Williams Lake Tribune

Tuesday Nov 10, 2009
  Byline: Ken MacInnis

Three chiefs from the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs have announced their support of the Tsilhqot’in National Government’s opposition to the use of Fish Lake as part of the Prosperity mine project.

In a letter to project proponent Taseko Mines’s vice president of corporate affairs Brian Battison, the federal review panel, and the Tribune, the chiefs write that they find it to be “shocking, deeply disappointing and totally unacceptable that Taseko continues to disrespect the Tsilhqot’in people and the leadership by undermining any possibility of open and respectful dialogue or engagement on select issues of mutual benefit.”

The letter was signed by UBCIC president Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, vice president Chief William Charlie, and secretary-treasurer Chief Robert Chamberlin. In an interview, Phillip said the mining industry needs to understand that using lakes in operations is a non-starter.

“If it’s in the plan to fill in a lake with tailings, that’s going to run headlong into First Nations opposition,” he said. “There would be a modicum of hope if (mining companies) would initiate dialogue, instead of coming to the table and saying ‘we have no choice but to destroy this lake, and let’s talk about it.’”

For the full Williams Lake Tribune article, please click here. 

 

'Get off our property!' - theVarsity.ca

Thursday Oct 29, 2009
  Lawsuit seeks to halt expansion of Athabasca tar sands into Cree territory.
By Alex Ross.

In May 2008, the Beaver Lake Cree launched a lawsuit against the government of Canada and the province of Alberta to prevent the expansion of the tar sands into their territory, located in Lac La Biche, Alberta. According to the lawsuit, an 1876 treaty between the Cree and Alberta states that, "in exchange for the surrender of land," the Cree have "the right to hunt and fish through the tract surrendered." But development of the tar sands will render the land uninhabitable, the Cree say.

"What this case is about, for the Cree people, is protecting the integrity of their land and protection of the land in which they hunt and fish. And they are guaranteed that right to hunt and fish in their treaty," Jack Woodward told the audience at George Ignatieff Theatre on October 28th at Tar Sands on Trial. The event was sponsored by Environmental Defence.


Click here for the full Varsity article. 

To read the speech delivered by Jack Woodward, click here. 


 

When Beauty & Business Collide - Winnipeg Sun (print and video)

Sunday Oct 25, 2009
  To make mining operations work, they will have to kill Fish Lake
By Peter Zimonjic

Fish Lake, BC - It's shortly after sunrise and the air over Fish Lake is cold, crisp and still.  The eastern faces of the Taseko mountains at the south end of the valley are just beginning to reflect the soft morning light.  Wild trout jump through the glassy surface of the water, disrupting the jagged reflection, begging to be pulled into a campfire breakfast by the First Nations who have gathered here to honour the land they have lived on for more than 5,000 years.

Cecil Grinder, a Chilcotin shaman, healer and spiritual guide who calls this land sacred, says that to touch the water in the lake is to touch the womb of the creator. Whether or not one is spiritual, it's difficult to argue the sentiment when faced with the simple striking beauty of this wilderness vista.

"If we destroy this water, if we contaminate this water, we are killing a living thing. It would be like me stabbing you in the heart."

For the full article, please click here. 

To watch Peter Zimonjic's Fish Lake in Danger video, click here.


 

Tsilhqot'in fight open pit mine - CBC

Thursday Oct 22, 2009
 

Some members of the Tsilhquot'in First Nations said they will do whatever it takes to halt a proposed open pit gold and copper mine 125 kilometres southwest of Williams Lake, B.C.

Vancouver -- About 30 members of the bands — which are also known as the Chilcotin First Nations — and their supporters rallied outside a downtown Vancouver hotel where the Mining Association of B.C. was holding a reception on Wednesday night.

Loretta Williams, the band's mining co-ordinator, said the open pit for the Prosperity mine proposed by Taseko Mines would be more than a kilometre in diameter and half a kilometre deep, effectively destroying a pristine part of their traditional territory.

The group is also concerned that the mine would use nearby Fish Lake and the surrounding valley to store tailings and waste rock, and a 125-kilometre transmission line would have to be installed to provide power, said Williams.

"We are totally opposed to both the proposed construction of the transmission and also the destruction of Fish Lake. We are concerned about our way of life and our salmon," said Williams.

To read the entire CBC story, click here. 

 



 


 

Taseko Mines EIS on Prosperity found deficient a 2nd time; First Nations suggest investors take note

Monday Oct 19, 2009
   
Press Release

For immediate release
 

Taseko Mines EIS on Prosperity deficient a second time; First Nations suggest investors and public take note

Williams Lake, October 19, 2009 -- The federal panel reviewing the proposed Taseko Mines Prosperity Gold-Copper Mine Project sent the mining company’s revised environmental impact statement (EIS) back a second time, saying the EIS is still deficient. In the panel’s letter to Taseko, it notes deficiencies in information requested about the proposed tailings storage facility and in traditional Aboriginal use of the area.

“Taseko Mines has gone public trying to point a finger at First Nations for delaying this important process,” notes Chief Bernie Elkins, of the Tsilhqot’in National Government. “However, it is Taseko that has held up the process by failing to provide the panel with the information it needs to go to public hearings.”

The Panel noted that Taseko Mines still has not provided the information it has requested on traditional “Aboriginal Fishery Usage” and “First Nation and Cultural Heritage.” Taseko was required as part of its EIS to describe First Nations use of the area that its project will impact if approved.

“Despite spending tens of millions of dollars on its EIS, Taseko’s treatment of First Nation’s impacts is shamefully poor, as the panel pointed out back in June, the first time it found the EIS deficient,” states Chief Marilyn Baptiste, of the Xeni Gwet’in First Nation. “The Panel encouraged Taseko to work with us and to fund traditional use studies to deal with this deficiency, but despite spending millions Taseko refused to approve a very modest budget for this work.”

Chief Baptiste goes on to point out that as a result, the Panel found Taseko’s EIS deficient a second time because it still does not provide sufficient information on the use of the area by First Nations. “By trying to skimp, save and understate the potential impacts of this project for First Nations, Taseko has delayed the review process. And the Panel continues to hold them accountable for this. Taseko is now paying for its refusal to work with First Nations.”

Chief Elkins also notes that even if the First Nation’s traditional use information had been provided, Taseko would still be holding up the process because of deficiencies in critical hydrology information identified by the Panel.

The Tsilhqot’in National Government says it is important that the public realize this process is not one that should be rushed through because of a bottom line. “We are in a process to decide the fate of an ecosystem and watershed – something that took thousands of years to create,” says Chief Elkins. “This process should take time because we have serious concerns that this mine represents a disastrous precedent for mining policy in Canada and puts all lakes in Canada at risk of destruction for the storage of contaminated mining waste.”

“First Nations are not the only ones with grave reservations about this proposed mine.” confirms Chief Baptiste. “This project is far from a done deal.”


-30-


For further information, please contact:
TNG Communications Department
Chief Bernie Elkins
Telephone: 250-392-3918
Email: chiefesdilagh@gmail.com

To print a copy of the Press Release, click here



 

Beaver Lake vs Canada - Focus Magazine October 2009

Thursday Oct 01, 2009
  A Victoria lawyer leads an international case that could eventually force the Canadian government to protect habitat - and stop expansion of the tar sands.

Excerpt:
"If indeed Canada simply honoured its constitutional obligation of protecting native rights to hunt and fish, we would also protect our biodiversity, our forests, our grasslands, our carbon sinks, our cultural and natural heritage." So says Jack Woodward of Woodward and Company, who has received funding from the Coooperative Bank in the UK to support the case.

Why Woodward? Why the Beaver Lake band? As Jack explains, "The Co-op members identified climate change as the single biggest issue of our time. They looked around the world for the single biggest new contributor to climate change and found the Alberta tar sands. Then they looked around for themost effective thing they could do to stop the tar sands and they found the legal struggle of the Beaver Lake Cree."

Read Briony Penn's full article from this month's edition of Focus Magazine

 

Canada's lakes slowly being converted into mining waste dumps - Digital Journal

Monday Sep 28, 2009
  Canada has an abundance of water which has long been a source of food and income, as well as many providing many different recreational pursuits. Lately, Canada has been putting some of its lakes to a new use - containment ponds for mining wastes

Home to the largest inland lakes in the world Canada's fresh water lakes and rivers have not only made Canada famous for these water holdings, but have played a historical role in the development of the nation. But over the years, these pure, pristine waters have been coming under increasing risks from human activities. The Council of Canadians says that Canada lacks federal leadership when it comes to protecting and conserving Canada's premiere resource. 

Click here for the entire article by Stephanie Dearing


 

News Analysis Brings Dire Forecast of 6.3-Degree Temperature Change - Washington Post

Friday Sep 25, 2009
  Climate researchers now predict the planet will warm by 6.3 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century even if the world's leaders fulfill their most ambitious climate pledges, a much faster and broader scale of change than forecast just two years ago, according to a report released Thursday by the United Nations Environment Program. 

The new overview of global warming research, aimed at marshaling political support for a new international climate pact by the end of the year, highlights the extent to which recent scientific assessments have outstripped the predictions issued by the Nobel Prize-winning U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007. 

Click here for the rest of the Washington Post article.

 

Prosperity panel meetings coming up – Williams Lake Tribune

Friday Sep 18, 2009
 
The Secretariat for the federal panel reviewing the proposed Prosperity Mine project will be holding information sessions on the review process in communities in the project area starting the week of Sept. 21.
• The first will be held on Monday, Sept. 21 at 9 a.m. at the Yunesit’in Community Youth Centre at Stone reserve.
• The second will be held later that day at 1 p.m. at the Tl’etinqox-t’in Elders’ Centre at Anaham reserve.
• The third will be held Sept. 22 at 9 a.m. at the Xeni Gwet’in Community Band Hall in Nemiah Valley.
• The fourth meeting will be held later that day at 3 p.m. at the Toosey Band Office at Toosey reserve.

Additional sessions may be scheduled subject to confirmation with aboriginal groups.
The information sessions will give aboriginal groups and other participants an opportunity to hear further information about the federal review, the panel’s role and mandate, and how interested parties can participate in the federal process.

The Secretariat for the panel will be making presentations and will answer questions relating to the federal review process. The panel itself will not be present at these sessions.
Further information on the environmental review is available on the Canadian Environmental Assessment Registry at www.ceaa.gc.ca , under registry number 09-05-44811.

The proponent, Taseko Mines Ltd., proposes to develop an open-pit gold-copper mine located 125 kilometres southwest of Williams Lake. The proposed project also includes tailings and waste rock areas, an onsite mill, an approximately 125-km long power transmission line corridor and an access road.

The panel was appointed by the federal Minister of the Environment to assess the environmental effects of the proposed project.

 

British environmentalists link with natives to fight tar sands - National Post

Monday Sep 14, 2009
  An op-ed piece by Kevin Libin - who did not attend the pow-wow back in July but is now commenting after last week's protests in the UK by other eNGOs. 

please click here for more information (PDF file)


 

Fight looms over Fish Lake - Georgia Straight

Thursday Aug 27, 2009
 
Mining firm promises a new lake, but Tsilhqot'in leader says that's the Creator's job. 

"Sport fishers can get slapped by the law for netting a single fish over the limit, yet a large Vancouver-based mining company is proposing to destroy a lake and the tens of thousands of trout that inhabit it." 

Please take the time to read this well-written article by Andrew Findlay of Vancouver's Georgia Straight.  Findlay delves into the troubling trends in Canadian environmental policy that don't bode well for our water or fish.  "In 2002, Fisheries and Oceans Canada quietly brought about, under Section 36 (Schedule 2) of the Fisheries Act, the Metal Mining Effluent Regulations, a convenient way to legitimize the use of an unknown number of freshwater lakes across Canada as mine-waste and tailings ponds."  

He also brings up the issues of science, and the potential impact of contamination to the Fraser River, one of the most productive salmon systems in the world.

please click here for more information (PDF file)


 

State Dept. Signs Off on Controversial Tar Sands Pipeline - Solve Climate

Friday Aug 21, 2009
  The U.S. State Department approved a controversial pipeline project today that, once built, will carry tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, into the northern United States. 

Environmental groups and Native Americans who have been fighting the Alberta Clipper pipeline plan are already preparing a legal challenge. 

In Canada, meanwhile, the Beaver Lake Cree Nation is going after the government and major oil producers in a fight for its rights under an 1876 treaty to hunt, fish and trap animals on the same land that is being stripped away for tar sands production.

please click here for more information (PDF file)


 

Tar sands: tearing the flesh from the Earth - The Ecologist

Friday Aug 21, 2009
    As the price of oil increases again, Canada's tar sands once more look like a giant cash cow to the industry. Now, the only thing standing between the 400 ton bulldozers and rampant environmental destruction may be a small group of First Nations people....

please click here for more information (PDF file)


 

Public comment period on new Prosperity information begins - WL Tribune

Thursday Aug 20, 2009
  The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency announced the beginning of the 30-day public comment period Wednesday.

“This 30-day comment period gives Aboriginal groups, governments and the public an opportunity to submit their views in writing to the panel on the adequacy of the additional information as measured against the EIS Guidelines and on the technical merit of the information presented. Opportunities to present overall views on the project will be provided at the future public hearing,” the public notice reads.

Once the 30-day period ends, the panel will determine whether it has sufficient information to proceed to the public hearing. A public notice will be issued and interested parties notified at least 30 days prior to the commencement of the hearing.

please click here for more information (PDF file)


 

Press Release: Beaver Lake Cree Nation Expresses Anger Over Bear Killings at Conklin

Monday Aug 17, 2009
 

Lac La Biche, Alberta -- Beaver Lake Cree Nation is saddened and dismayed by news that Alberta wildlife officers have shot and killed 12 bears in a landfill near Conklin, Alberta last week. Beaver Lake Cree Nation, a small Cree band from northeastern Alberta, has filed a court case to halt the wholesale devastation of their traditional hunting and fishing lands by the destructive march of the tar sands. The legal action is aimed at protecting the wildlife and wildlife habitat of the boreal forest that covers those lands.
 

please click here for more information (PDF file)


 

National Council of Canadians members visit Fish Lake - Williams Lake Tribune

Wednesday Jul 29, 2009
  Members of the Council of Canadians visited Fish Lake (Teztan Biny) recently where they talked about the impact of the proposed Taseko Mines Ltd. Prosperity Project. 

please click here for more information (PDF file)


 

Helping the dirty oilsands scrub behind its ears - Edmonton Journal

Wednesday Jul 29, 2009
  An editorial piece by Graham Thomson - July 25, 2009.  Brilliant!

please click here for more information (PDF file)


 

Gas pains! The Montreal Gazette Op-Ed by Janet Bagnall

Monday Jul 27, 2009
  Harper refuses to recognize the urgent need for action to reduce greenhouse gases...  

"But if the Harper government seems prepared to blow off international criticism, it's going to find it harder to ignore when the British come over here and put money down to draw attention to our hypocrisy."

In this insightful opinion piece, Janet Bagnall quotes Jack Woodward about the Beaver Lake Cree Nation lawsuit, placing the issue within the context of the current G8 meeting in Italy.  "Canada as a nation will realize that the expansion of the tar sands is morally and economically untenable."  Ms Bagnall also includes comments from Manchester's Co-operative Bank, which is supporting the Beaver Lake Cree financially.

please click here for more information (PDF file)


 

Fish Lake is Not a Tailings Pond - Watershed Sentinel

Monday Jul 27, 2009
 

A new article by RAVEN president David Williams, published on Watershed Sentinel - Environmental News from British Columbia and the world. 

please click here for more information (PDF file)


 

Xeni Gwet'in elders gather at Big Onion Lake - Williams Lake Tribune

Thursday Jul 23, 2009
  A report on the recent gathering, and the need to save Teztan Biny from the proposed Taseko Mines Ltd. Prosperity Gold/Copper mine. 

please click here for more information (PDF file)


 

Co-op backs tribe's environmental lawsuit - The Herald

Monday Jul 20, 2009
 

The Herald - Glasgow,Scotland,UK
The Co-operative Financial Services is backing the Beaver Lake Cree nation, who are fighting the extraction of tar sands from their ancestral lands in the boreal forests of Alberta....
 

please click here for more information (PDF file)


 

U.K. fund Cree nation to fight oilsands - Edmonton Journal

Wednesday Jul 08, 2009
 

Chief Al Lameman receives cheque from Co-operative Bank  More follow up from the Beaver Lake Cree Nation pow-wow.  The Co-operative Group in Manchester bank donates $100,000.  The funds are for the lawsuit aimed at protecting BLCN's traditional lands and protecting the planet by stopping the tar sands expansion. 

please click here for more information (PDF file)


 

UK Bank backs oilsands lawsuit - Edmonton Journal, July 5, 2009

Monday Jul 06, 2009
  Beaver Lake Cree claim development tramples on traditional hunting and fishing grounds.

please click here for more information (PDF file)


 

Prosperity panel wants more information from Taseko - Williams Lake Tribune - June 25, 2009

Monday Jul 06, 2009
 

Good news for those of us concerned with the proposed mine!

On Wednesday, June 24th the federal Review Panel announced that Taseko must address deficiencies in their Environmental Impact Statement before the Panel will schedule dates for the hearings. Once Taseko has provided that information there will be another public comment period and then the Panel will again have to decide whether to proceed or if they need more information. This cycle will repeat itself until the Panel is satisfied that there is enough information to proceed to hearings.

In the meantime, Friends of the Nemaiah Valley will be working with economics expert Dr. Marvin Shaffer to conduct a more comprehensive assessment of the net benefits and costs of this proposed project. The Review Panel is requiring Taseko to provide more information about their alternatives assessment including material on costing and the economic feasibility of other options, the factors considered in their alternatives assessment and the financial security of the project. Dr. Shaffer's expertise will be able to provide an important critique of this information.

For the link to the Williams Lake Tribune article, click here.  www.bclocalnews.com/bc_cariboo/williamslaketribune/news/49079681.html 

A copy of the Deficiency Statement sent by the federal Review Panel to Taseko Mines is attached.

please click here for more information (PDF file)


 

Stop the Oilsands Boycott Launched by Ethical Consumer

Thursday Jun 25, 2009
  Noting that the Canadian oil sands "threaten to unleash far more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than the planet can possibly cope with," Ethical Consumer wants consumers to boycott all companies that profit from the oi sands.  And they cite the Beaver Lake Cree Nation's legal challenge as a direct way to make a difference.

You can read all about it here!  www.ethicalconsumer.org/Oilsandsboycott/KeyInformation.aspx

please click here for more information (PDF file)


 

Co-operative Bank donates funds to Beaver Lake Cree legal action

Wednesday Jun 17, 2009
  As part of the The Co-operative Bank’s “Toxic Fuel” campaign, which supports the Beaver Lake Cree Nation legal action, the bank will be donating £100, 000 to charities and organisations involved in challenging the expansion of toxic fuels. The bank is asking colleagues and customers to vote on how to split the donation between three worthy causes, and topping the list is the Beaver Lake Cree Nation.

Visit the Co-operative Bank’s Toxic Fuel site to see how this exciting campaign is getting the attention of investors in the U.K.

blog.goodwithmoney.co.uk/topics/campaigns/customers-who-care/toxic-fuels/

www.co-operativecampaigns.co.uk/toxicfuels/beaverlakecree/

 

Cree lawsuit would drain energy royalties - Edmonton Journal

Friday Jun 12, 2009
 

"Native band says 15,000 oilsands developments planned on ancestral land"
Read the full article by Elise Stolte.

please click here for more information (PDF file)


 

Podcast from CFUV about proposed mining practices and impact on Teztan Biny (Fish Lake)

Friday Jun 12, 2009
  Amy Crook of the Centre of Science in Public Participation is interviewed by Janelle Bandcroft on CFUV.  For the full interview you can listen to the podcast. Be advised Amy's portion of the interview follows a conversation by Rev. Lucius Walker so you need to fast forward. 

web.mac.com/bandcroft/Relative_Newz/Podcast/Entries/2009/6/11_Why_Cuba__Why_BC.html

 

Beaver Lake Cree Nation will continue to defend its treaty rights to stop the tar sands

Thursday Jun 11, 2009
  The Beaver Lake Cree Nation issued a press release in response to Alberta and Canada's pre-trial motions to the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench seeking to put a halt to the litigation.  Read the full release for more information.

please click here for more information (PDF file)


 

Scraping Bottom - National Geographic

Monday Mar 02, 2009
  By Robert Kunzig - Once considered too expensive, as well as too damaging to the land, exploitation of Alberta's oil sands is now a gamble worth billions. 

To read this compelling article, please click here.

 
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