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article imageB.C. First Nations seeking injunction on Taseko mine permits

By Karen Graham     Aug 3, 2017 in Environment
Vancouver - Tsilhqot’in National Government representatives were in the B.C. Supreme Court this week, asking for an immediate injunction to stop Taseko’s exploratory drilling for the controversial open-pit New Prosperity Mine, set to begin August 7.
Vancouver, British Columbia-based Taseko Mines Limited's hastily approved permits for exploratory drilling in conjunction with an open pit gold and copper mine are at the center of a contentious court battle this week, with First Nations leaders asking the court for an immediate injunction.
The whole fight centers around a Taseko claim on lands that are the traditional territory of the Tsilhqot’in National Government, which covers a broad swath of the Cariboo Chilcotin, including Taseko Mines’ mineral claim for New Prosperity, which lies 125 kilometers southwest of Williams Lake.
But the issue that makes Taseko's claim smell to high-heavens is that the outgoing B.C. Liberal government hastily issued the exploration permits for the New Prosperity Mine just days before the new government was to take over, and while wildfires were raging in the Cariboo and Williams Lake region, putting the Tsilhqot’in under a wildfire evacuation order.
The permits were issued on Friday, July 14. “I appreciate this may come at a difficult time for you given the wildfire situation affecting some of your communities, however, I made the permit decision Friday, ” Rick Adams, the senior inspector with the B.C. Ministry of Energy and Mines, told Tsilhqot’in representatives in an e-mail.
The permits grant Taseko permission to create 76 kilometers of new or modified trails, 122 exploratory drill holes, 367 excavated test pits and 20 kilometers of seismic lines near Fish Lake, also known as Teztan Biny, an area of spiritual and cultural significance to the First Nations people.
Chris Tollefson, a lawyer with the Pacific Centre for Environmental Law and Litigation, said there is no law that says a government can't issue permits during final days in power, however, “there is an obligation on the Crown and on government to conduct itself in a manner that upholds the honour of the Crown.”
The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) considers that proposed exploration work to be “in connection with carrying out” the mine project that has already been turned down by the federal government, in 2010 and again, in 2014, according to the Vancouver Sun. The CEAA issued a letter to Taseko on July 28, stating they would proceed with"enforcement action" if work was started.
Taseko CEO Russell Hallbauer, however, says the issue is a jurisdictional dispute between the province and federal government because the company’s "geotechnical drilling, excavation, and seismic testing isn’t part of building the project as defined in the CEAA."
“We’re not working on the project as designated,” said Hallbauer. “We’re gathering information, which we’re allowed to do.” It is a wonder as to how much more information Taseko needs. If you look at Taseko New Prosperity Mine project webpage, the project represents a "one billion tonne measured and indicated resource containing 5.3 billion pounds of copper and 13.3 million ounces of gold. At metal prices of US$1,000/ounce gold and US$3.15/pound copper, the project has a pre-tax net present value of C$3 billion."
The First Nations injunction would bar Taseko from starting work on what is supposed to be a three-year project involving additional drilling and excavations, even while other applications for judicial review are heard. The important point Taseko is missing here is that previous rejections of the permit at the federal level cited the impacts on fisheries that couldn’t be mitigated, and previous court actions provide “hundreds and hundreds of pages of evidence” to back the government's claims.
More about British columbia, New Prosperity Mine, Taseko, First nations, Injunction
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