Indigenous leaders outraged over B.C. Liberal government exploration permits for mine near Williams Lake
The proposed Prosperity Mine 125 kilometres southwest of Williams Lake was twice vetoed by the former Conservative government because of environmental concerns.
But that hasn't stopped the B.C. Ministry of Energy and Mines from issuing permits to allow Taskeo Mines to conduct preconstruction exploration activities.
That has enraged leaders of the Tsilhqut'in National Government. They say they're already busy dealing with wildfires that led to the evacuation of four of their six communities.
“This is a typical move by the Liberal government," Chief and tribal chair Joe Alphonse said in a news release. "They are a dead political party trying to mount a dead horse and hoping to ride it to a comeback."
Tsilhqot'in leaders say they will launch a court challenge against the provincial permits. According to the news release, the B.C. government has authorized 122 drill holes, 367 test pits, 20 kilometres of seismic lines, and 76 kilometres of new or modified trails.
“We are in shock. In the midst of B.C.’s worst crisis in decades, while our elders and children are threatened by wildfire, B.C. decides to add insult to injury by granting these permits," Chief Roger William of the Xeni Gwet’in First Nation and tribal vice chair said. "B.C. disregarded the immense record showing the importance of this area for our culture and approved extensive ground disturbance for a mine that cannot lawfully be built. Our people are understandably angry and cannot believe that B.C. would approve more destruction in an area of such spiritual and cultural importance for us. Especially when we are experiencing a state of emergency.”
Chief Russell Myers Ross of the Yunesit’in said he was "speechless" over the timing of the permits.
“It defies compassion that while our people are fighting for our homes and lives, B.C. issues permits that will destroy more of our land beyond repair.," he stated.
Later today, NDP Leader John Horgan will be sworn in as B.C.'s 36th premier. At that time, he will reveal the cabinet in the new NDP minority government.
The B.C. Liberals will then become B.C.'s Official Opposition.
The Georgia Straight first covered the Prosperity Mine proposal in 2009 when journalist Andrew Findlay revealed the company's plans to turn Fish Lake, which was home to 85,000 trout, into an impoundment reservoir for toxic tailings.
The company went back to the drawing board after its proposal was rejected in 2010. Its second proposal was also nixed by the feds in 2014.
Earlier this year, Taseko Mines launched a constitutional challenge against the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.
Meanwhile, Taseko Mines issued a statement on July 17 saying it has "temporarily idled" its Gibraltar mine near Williams Lake because of wildfires.
"There are no fires in the immediate area of Gibraltar which pose any threat to the mine," the company said. "This is an evolving situation which management is actively managing to ensure Gibraltar is restarted as soon as possible."