Taseko's proposed Prosperity mine faces growing opposition from First Nations
Canadian First Nations appear to be lining up to prevent Taseko Mines Ltd. (TSX: T.TKO, Stock Forum) from developing an $815 million gold-copper mine in the Williams Lake area of central British Columbia.
The move comes two weeks after a Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency panel set up to review Taseko’s Prosperity project said it will result in significant adverse environmental effects on fish and fish habitat, on traditional aboriginal use of the area and potentially impact aboriginal rights and title.
It is now up to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Federal cabinet to decide whether or not the economic benefits of the mine outweigh the environmental impacts, which include the destruction of a fish-bearing lake that will be needed to contain toxic mine tailings.
Meanwhile, the Tsilhqot’in National Government, which represents First Nations that will be most impacted by the proposed mine, said it welcomes a pledge by the Assembly of First Nations’ Chiefs-in Assembly to “stand behind the Tsilhqot’in Nation in defense of these lands regardless of the decision made by the Federal Government.”
“The message from the chiefs at the Annual General Assembly in Winnipeg this week should make it clear to government and industry that this environmentally and culturally unsupportable – and economically questionable – proposed mine is not the way forward for mining or for relationships with First Nations in B.C. or Canada,’’ said Chief Joe Alphonse, Tribal Chair Tsilhqot’in National Government.
“First Nations across the country are backing us and making this a national fight because they know that if this can happen to us, it can happen to them,’’ Chief Alphonse said.
In addition to backing the Tsilhqot’in Nation, the Chiefs-in-Assembly is calling on Ottawa to reject the proposed Prosperity mine.
Taseko spokesman Brian Battison said the company regrets that First Nations chiefs have chosen to use Prosperity as a platform to wage a fight over decisions that affect the land. "Since 95% of British Columbia is comprised of Crown land, there is a lot on the table,'' he said. "This goes beyond our project.''
Taseko has previously said it remains confident that opposition from local aboriginal groups will not prevent the mine from going ahead.
Battison said the Prosperity project has already been endorsed by the provincial government which granted the company an environmental certificate in January.
Franco-Nevada Mining Corp. (TSX: T.FNV, Stock Forum) recently agreed to kick in US$350 million to fund the construction effort in return for 22% of the future gold production.