Yesterday the Minister of the Environment, Hon. Leona Aglukkaq, issued a decision statement regarding the New Prosperity Mine in British Columbia’s Chilcotin district, concluding that “the New Prosperity Mine project is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects that cannot be mitigated. The Governor in Council (the cabinet) has determined that those effects are not justified in the circumstances; therefore the project may not proceed.”
- Minister’s Press Release: http://www.ceaa-acee.gc.ca/050/document-eng.cfm?document=98459
- Decision Statement: http://www.ceaa-acee.gc.ca/050/documents/p63928/98458E.pdf
- Backgrounder: http://www.ceaa-acee.gc.ca/050/document-eng.cfm?document=98460
RAVEN supported the Tsilqhotin through both federal envrionmental reviews. Through this second round, once again our incredible donors made it possible for the Xeni Gwet’in First Nation and Tsilhqot’in National Government to participate fully with the best possible science and legal experts. Now we celebrate with the Tsilhqot’in!
We also applaud the minister for making the correct decision. The mine, standing at the headwaters of the Taseko, Chilko, Chilcotin and Fraser River systems would:
- pose an unacceptable threat to one of the provinces greatest resources;
- destroy fresh water lakes and contaminate others;
- have severe impacts on some of the last, best grizzly bear habitat available to the endangered dryland interior grizzly population;
- have effects on Tsilhqot’in culture that could not be mitigated.
The area in question has been identified by distinguished ethno-botanist Nancy Turner as a “cultural keystone place” of great spiritual and cultural significance to the Tsilhqot’in people. The courts of the land have entrenched aboriginal rights to the area sufficient to prevent destructive industrial projects like new Prosperity. Costly and lengthy court cases would have ensued should the mine have been approved.
In the Tsilhqot’in media release, issued this morning, leadership once again emphasized that industry needs to realize they can’t trample Aboriginal rights and the environment like a giant in a sandbox. They now call on this to be the end of a costly, pointless battle that has dragged on since at least 1995, when Taseko Mines Ltd. was first told by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans not to waste any further time or money pursuing this unacceptable project.
Chief Joe Alphonse (3rd from left), Tribal Chair for the Tsilhqot’in National Government said: “We are celebrating this decision to reject once again this terrible project, which threatened our pristine waters, fish and Aboriginal rights.
“We commend the federal government for not bowing to industry lobbying and instead respecting the science and the independent process which came to the conclusion that this project would have devastating impacts on the environment and our Nation’s ability to practice our rights in a sacred spiritual site. These impacts could not be mitigated,”
Chief Roger William (2nd from left) of the Xeni Gwet’in First Nations Government stated: “We are talking about one of the few areas in Canada to have a court declaration of proven Aboriginal rights, so it is no surprise that the government had to reject this. Now is the time to make this decision the full and final rejection.
“We call on the Province and Taseko Mines Ltd. to acknowledge that this is the end, to pack up their tents and go home. The company has wasted too many resources and time on a project that was first rejected in 1995. It is time to look elsewhere and leave us in peace. We believe TML’s investors feel the same way after funding three failed attempts to get this approved.”
One final comment from Chief Joe: “This sends a strong message that industry needs to come through our doors, treat us with respect and they can’t play dirty politics. We have fought long and hard, and we would not wish this on any other Nation. Now we want to be able to move forward with other business opportunities that respect our culture. For that reason we will be making public a Tsilhqot’in Mining Policy about how engagement in our Territory must occur. In this case, it was the wrong project in the wrong place.”
Unfortunately, this decision doesn’t signify the end of our involvement. There is still the judicial review, with which Taseko indicates they intend to forge ahead. Faced with the panels scathing independent report, Taseko immediately started attacking the credibility of the independent panel, culminating in a lawsuit filed at the end of November. In this lawsuit, the company asks the Federal Court to set aside key findings of the Panel and declare the Panel’s process unfair to the company. The Tsilhqot’in have been listed as responders to this judicial review and will likely be in court for the next year or so. RAVEN will continue to raise funds for this legal action.