Benny William, a former Xeni Gwet’in Chief, takes a photograph of Teztan Biny (Fish Lake). The Tsilhqo’tin National Government learned Friday its petition to stop exploratory drilling by Taseko Mines Ltd. was dismissed by the Supreme Court of British Columbia. Loretta Williams photo

Company cleared to start exploratory drilling in B.C. First Nations title area

Tsilhqot’tin Nation calls on NDP Government to step in and stop mine program

  • Aug. 27, 2018 3:51 p.m.

The mining company holding the rights to one of the world’s biggest untouched gold deposits within Canada’s only legally recognized Aboriginal rights and title area is preparing to conduct exploratory drilling against the wishes of the territory’s First Nations.

Last week, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Ward K. Branch dismissed the Tsilhqot’in Nation’s legal bid to stop Taseko Mines from starting exploratory drilling in the Fish Lake area, about a 4.5-hour southwest of Williams Lake in the Cariboo region.

“The history of the simultaneous efforts to establish Aboriginal rights, protect the environment, and develop what may be one of the world’s largest gold deposits, has been long and difficult,” Justice Branch said in his written decision.

“Based on the evidence presented to me, all parties and governments appear to be acting in good faith to advance what they each perceive to be the proper use for the land. But unfortunately, good faith cannot always prevent disagreement. That is when courts must step in to help the parties move forward.”

The Tsilhqot’in National Government had alleged the B.C. government breached its duty to consult and accommodate the Nation in approving the contentious plans for further exploration in the remote area.

Branch ruled both the consultation process and degree of accommodation by the provincial government to the Tsilhqot’in Nation were such that the honour of the Crown was maintained, and adequate reconciliation efforts were made in the circumstances.

The court decision is the latest in a long string of legal applications and disputes over several years between the mining company, the TNG, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and the provincial government.

The decision has cleared the way for Taseko Mines to construct 76 kilometres of new or modified road and trail, conduct 122 geotechnical drill sites, dig 367 trench or pit tests and clear 20 kilometres of seismic lines near Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) and Nabas, an area of cultural and spiritual significance for the Tŝilhqot’in.

The permit also allows the company to set up a 50-person camp with 11 mobile trailer units while the work is being conducted.

Related: TNG’s injunction against Taseko drilling permit in Supreme Court Monday

In the wake of the decision, TNG chiefs are now calling on Premier John Horgan to step in.

“The Tŝilhqot’in Nation will not stand by as Taseko Mines Ltd. moves forward with a drilling program for a mine that was rejected twice by the federal government and cannot be built,” said Chief Joe Alphonse, tribal chairman with the Tŝilhqot’in National Government in a news release.

“Drilling and exploration work at Teztan Biny stands to destroy centuries of sacred and protected sites that are integral to the preservation of Tŝilhqot’in culture.

“We are disappointed that the courts did not see through the smokescreen. This decision isn’t about Prosperity Mine being a good project; it’s about continuing to line the pockets of the shareholders of Taseko Mines.”

Two independent federal panels have confirmed the area is of unique and special importance to the Tŝilhqot’in, and this was a large factor in two federal rejections of a mine in this location.

Related: New agreements reached on Tsilhqot’in title lands

The Tŝilhqot’in Nation said it is extremely disappointed and concerned that Taseko Mines now intends to carry out the drilling program as early as this week.

“The Nation will be reviewing all options to protect this critical cultural area.”

Taseko Mines vice-president Brian Battison was not immediately available for comment.

The company holds a mineral lease and mineral claims in the area — much of the same area that the TNG has also won Aboriginal rights and title over.

In his background information, Justice Branch said the area is said to contain one of the largest undeveloped gold and copper deposits in the world, containing an estimated 11 million ounces of gold and four billion pounds of copper.

If approved, it is anticipated that the mine would be in production for 20 years. Exploration and development efforts have already been ongoing for 20 years.


Do you have a comment about this story? email:
editor@wltribune.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Two hiking families team up to extinguish fire in Manning Park backcountry

Children and their parents worked for three hours to ensure safety of the popular hiking region

Hope’s Wheeled Wild Women hit the road for cancer research

Group of friends ready for the 200-km bike trek that ends in Hope

Kilby painting festival wraps up with award-winning art

Kilby Historic Site hosted 26 painters over the three day festival

Comedy, chicken poop and dancing at Lytton Festival

This year’s festival will honour longtime supporter Shirley James

Hope women save man from potential train incident

Man was standing on 6th Avenue tracks as train approached crossing with horn blasting

VIDEO: Canadian zoos’ captive breeding programs help preserve endangered species

Programs considered last-ditch effort to prevent local extinctions of turtles, butterflies and more

Vancouver man arrested after pregnant woman’s SUV stolen, then crashed

Police are recommending charges against a 22-year-old Vancouver man

Oppenheimer Park residents told to leave, clear out tents by Aug. 21

Police say park has seen influx of residents, violence in recent months

Elections Canada to assess ‘partisan’ climate change rhetoric case by case

People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier has said climate change is not an emergency nor caused by human

Unseasonable snow forces campers out of northeastern B.C. provincial park

Storm brought as much as 35 centimetres of snow to the Fort Nelson, Muncho Lake Park-Stone Mountain Park

B.C. log export rules killing us, northwest harvester says

NorthPac Forestry says Skeena Sawmills has plenty of timber

Environment groups warned saying climate change is real could be seen as partisan

Talk of climate change could be viewed as advocating against Maxime Bernier, the leader of the People’s Party of Canada

Search crews find 4-year-old boy who went missing near Mackenzie

George went missing early Saturday afternoon

Most Read