The New Prosperity Mine proposal will be scrutinized by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA), the federal office has announced. But leaders of the Tsilhqot’in First Nation, and now the group BC’s First Nations Women Advocating Responsible Mining (FNWARM), are calling it a waste of money.
Aboriginals were adamantly against the project last year and are even more vehemently opposed to the second version, which they said is worse than the first. The proposal’s first incarnation was nixed by the federal government last year as an environmental disaster in the making.
The Tsilhqot’in leaders were angry and alarmed by the government’s decision to review the proposal, renamed New Prosperity.
"This is a wrong decision that makes no sense to us and raises serious concerns, but at least the Minister of Environment recognizes these must be addressed through a public review panel that ensures full transparency and accountability," Tsilhqot'in National Government Tribal Chair Chief Joe Alphonse said in a statement. "The Tsilhqot'in people are angry and frustrated that they will be dragged through another costly, foolish and divisive process when the facts show this resubmission is just a repackaged version of a previous option that has already been ruled out as worse than the original plan."
Adding fuel to the proverbial fire, the British Columbia government has already leapfrogged over objections and the federal government and granted test-drilling licenses to Taseko Mines Limited, the Vancouver company that is pushing to build the mine.
"There can be no doubt that this is one of the worst projects, pursued in the worst way—we are being forced to waste time and money on a proposal that the company itself has clearly admitted is worse than the plan that was rejected a year ago," said FNWARM Chair Bev Sellars, chief of the Xat'sull (Soda Creek) First Nation, in a November 7 statement. “We can only hope this review is based on a technicality and that it will be dealt with quickly through a transparent public review by the same panel that studied the first project. As long as the decision is based on facts—not spin or unchallenged false claims—this project cannot be approved."
Sellars said the province should gather all stakeholders to the table, from First Nations to the Association for Mineral Exploration British Columbia and the Mining Association of British Columbia. Rather than waste time studying obviously fatally flawed mining proposals, she said, everyone should work together to find a way forward that benefits all parties.
"The damage that approval for the Prosperity Mine project would inflict on the credibility of the EA process and the honour of the Crown in terms of protecting First Nations rights cannot be overstated,” Sellars said. “We need this confrontational Prosperity Mine proposal laid to rest so that we can work on building trust and good relationships."