New Prosperity Mine opponents courting legal decisions

Proposed New Prosperity gold-copper mine opponents look to the scales of justice for answers

Reactions continue to escalate as Taseko Mines’ proposed New Prosperity gold-copper mine in the Chilcotin prompts objections from both sides, landing matters back into the court system.

Taseko Mines Limited announced in a Nov. 14 press release it had started legal action against individuals who obstructed its employees and an equipment convoy from entering the proposed mine site.

The mining company didn’t name the individuals who allegedly blocked the employees’ passage, but states Taseko is seeking a restraining order to prevent them, or any other individuals, from interfering with the company’s “lawfully approved work” (through permits it received from the provincial government to do further testing at the proposed mining site).

The mine continues to be a hot-button issue with First Nations, environmental groups and others in the community and across British Columbia.

Cariboo-Chilcotin NDP candidate Charlie Wyse said the responsibility to keep the parties at the table rests with the provincial and federal governments.

“That is the tragedy when the process set up by the province doesn’t keep the parties together at the table.

“We end up in the court system to resolve an issue, and that means there is no decision that will made around the item while the court is dealing with it.”

The recent announcement that a revised Prosperity Mine proposal will go back for another federal review prompted backlash from the Tsilhqot’in National Government (TNG), and resulted in its filing for a B.C. Supreme Court injunction on Nov. 10.

The TNG expressed alarm that Taseko would proceed to further damage the area by using “prematurely” granted permits for constructing 23.5 kilometres of roads and proceed with 59 test pits, eight geotechnical drill holes and 10 diamond drill holes.

The First Nations group filed for the injunction in an attempt to prevent Taseko from doing any drilling, excavation, timber clearing, road construction and other preparatory work during the review period.

While Wyse said he cannot comment further on the specifics, while these issues are in the courts, he noted First Nations do have the legal right for consultation and governments are responsible to ensure due process for that has been given.

“Now, we have two parties in the court arguing one way or the other … now, the courts are going to be deciding that issue, and that’s years down the road.”

Meanwhile during Question Period in the legislature on Nov. 14, Cariboo North MLA Bob Simpson asked the B.C. Liberal government to explicitly state how it was going to address the fact the TNG has rejected Taseko Mine’s New Prosperity project even before it undergoes a second federal environmental review.

“The province is also acting as though the Prosperity Mine is a ‘done deal,’ causing the [TNG] to take it to court for [the government’s] continued failure to adhere to even the most basic consultation requirements.”

Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett was unavailable to comment personally, but sent her statements through government caucus communications officer Ryan Shotton, which included the following:

“As the matter regarding Prosperity is before the courts, it would be inappropriate for me to comment, as I think it is for [Simpson] to be doing.

“What I can assure you of is that British Columbia is committed to working with First Nations to share the wealth generated by B.C.’s natural resources and is the first province in Canada to share direct revenue generated from mining with First Nations.

“These agreements ensure First Nations communities benefit directly from resource development in their territories, and provide the financial capacity to achieve objectives they have identified for their community. We believe these agreements also bring certainty to the investment climate.”