Taseko Mines Ltd.’s second attempt to build a mine that the Tsilhqot’in call the worst mine ever proposed is going to go about as far as the first one did, the First Nation’s government said upon news that the Canadian government has accepted the resubmitted proposal for review.
The Canadian government has accepted Taseko’s project description for the New Prosperity mine by way of moving the proposal forward for discussion, the mining company said in a media release on August 26. The federal environmental review will begin by November 7 and can take up to a year.
Canada soundly rejected the original proposal, which called for the destruction of Fish Lake by turning it into a tailings pond. Taseko’s new plan isn’t much better, the Tsilhqot’in National Government (TNG) said in a counter statement.
“The only major change is that instead of killing Teztan Biny outright, it would render it inaccessible, destroy the smaller adjacent lake that is essential to its self contained wild trout ecosystem, and leave open the option of killing the lake later during the proposed extended 33-year lifetime of the mine,” the TNG statement said. “The plan does not address the impact on endangered grizzly-bear and their habitat and in no way removes the irreversible damage to current and future First Nations title and rights, including archaeological and cultural sites.”
The mining company “has made significant efforts to address the concerns identified during the original federal review process,” said Taseko President and CEO Russell Hallbauer in a statement. “In particular, the preservation of Fish Lake, which adds $300 million in capital and operating expense to the project, is a strong example of the company's commitment to the success of New Prosperity and to the principles of sustainable mining.”
The Tsilhqot’in don’t buy those assurances, pointing out that this next step only acknowledges that Taseko has taken its project description to the next stage. The Tsilhqot’in urged the Canadian government to stop wasting taxpayers’ money on further study. The Assembly of First Nations has vowed to support the Tsilhqot'in in their fight to preserve their ancestral lands and the wildlife habitats that sustain them. The Sierra Club of British Columbia has also weighed in.
“Today’s announcement by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency merely finds that the company has finally completed their project description up to the point where a next step could be considered,” said TNG Tribal Chair Chief Joe Alphonse in a statement. “The fact remains that this bid, which was presented to the previous Expert Panel and deemed worse than the original plan, fails to address any of the environmentally scathing issues that led to the first proposal being rejected.”