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 TNG has written to Jody Shimkus, the Chief Gold Commissioner, recommending the decision be rescinded.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).
For more information, please contact:
Chief Marilyn Baptiste
Xeni Gwet’in First Nation