In response to attempts by Taseko Mines Ltd. (TML) to begin exploration activities near Teztan Biny, the Tsilhqot’in Nation on Monday November 14thfiled an injunction against the company to halt its plans for extensive road-building, drilling, excavation of test pits, and timber clearing in support of its controversial resubmitted bid for approval of its Prosperity Mine project.
The Tsilhqot’in have already filed an application for Judicial Review to invalidate or suspend the work permits issued to TML by the provincial government, on the grounds that the Tsilhqot’in were not properly consulted and their serious concerns were ignored. The Tsilhqot’in Nation has proven Aboriginal rights to hunt and trap throughout the area and a ruling from the B.C. Court of Appeal is expected any day.
“We are seeking every reasonable path available to us, despite our limited resources, to ensure that Tsilhqot’in rights are protected in the face of a company and a government that do not understand how unique and important this area is to our communities,” said Chief Joe Alphonse, chair of the Tsilhqot’in National Government, which represents six First Nations. “We view the B.C. exploration permits as illegal as they have failed to accommodate our already proven Aboriginal rights to this area – rights which will be adversely impacted by the significant amount of roads, drilling and test pits proposed by the company.”
Xeni Gwet’in Chief Marilyn Baptiste said: “Our people are deeply frustrated that having defeated this project last year, we are now faced with having the company once again cause extensive destruction – using permits issued in breach of our consultation rights – in an effort to promote a mining option that TML, Environment Canada, and the first federal review panel have all clearly stated is worse than the company’s preferred plan.
“We are particularly offended that the company is claiming this work is needed to save Teztan Biny when its own chief engineer and other officials told the review panel last year that the option now being pursued cannot save the lake, would poison it in the long run, would kill its support ecosystem, and raise other environmental concerns,” said Chief Baptiste.
Five weeks before it was even known if there would be a federal review of this company’s rebid, BC issued permits to TML to cut timber and build over 23Kms of road, to drill, clear timber and dig large pits. This provincial permitting came on the heels of an independent audit which showed the BC Environmental Assessment Office engaged in deeply flawed “rubberstamp” process for the original Prosperity Mine project. This process also failed to meet the minimum standards as set out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.