MAC: Mines and Communities

Canada: The Tsilqhot'in take on Taseko for a second time

Published by MAC on 2012-03-06
Source: Canadian press, statement

Canada's Tsilhqot'in First Nation is firmly opposed to any attempt by Taseko Mines to construct a mine which would ruin the quality of the communities' fresh water.

But, last month the First Nation dropped opposition to the company's new exploration programme.

It hopes that this will finally expose flaws in Taseko's revised mining plan, which the Tsilhquot'in consider to be even worse than one proposed earlier.

Meanwhile, the company has filed a lawsuit, alleging that an environmental group has made inaccurate and defamatory comments that "threaten to mislead the public".

Previous article on MAC: Tsilhqot'in welcome injunction against Taseko Mines

Tsilhqot'in determined to fight "new"

Tsilhqot'in statement

29 February 2012

TSILHQOT'IN TERRITORY, BC - After a series of recent community meetings, the Tsilhqot'in Nation has reinforced its determination to protect Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) and the surrounding area from the threat of Taseko Mines Ltd.'s (TML) proposed "new" Prosperity Mine.

The Tsilhqot'in communities strongly opposed TML's 2011 exploration program and obtained an injunction from the BC Supreme Court preventing the company from conducting that work, pending a challenge to the approvals.

However, for the sole purpose of providing information to the federal environmental assessment process, the Tsilhqot'in have agreed to allow TML to carry out a significantly reduced exploration program under strict conditions. On this basis, all parties have agreed to end all outstanding litigation about the exploration program.

"This was not a decision we made lightly," said Xeni Gwet'in Chief Marilyn Baptiste. "The communities were prepared to oppose this exploration at all costs. We don't want any more damage to this sacred area. But as a Nation, we've made a decision to focus our energies on the real battle of defeating this project, full-stop."

Chief Joe Alphonse, Chair of the Tsilhqot'in National Government, which represents six First Nations: "We already know this version of the project is worse than what was already rejected by the Federal government in 2010. We know this because the company said so themselves. The agreement to allow TML to conduct further tests in no way suggests that the Tsilhqot'in Nation is ready to accept the project, and in fact, the message we heard from the communities was that we must do everything we can to protect these lands and waters from this mine proposal."

Ten facts that show why resubmitted Prosperity Mine proposal cannot be approved

1 The CEAA review panel process was very different from the BC EAO rubber-stamp decision. Its report found immitigable, devastating impacts to the local fish stocks and endangered grizzly populations, and to the existing and future rights of the Tsilhqot'in and its youth. Then Environment Minister Jim Prentice described the report's findings as"scathing" and "probably the most condemning I have ever read."

2. The company knows its new option is worse than its first plan. TML's V.P. Corporate Affairs, Brian Battison, was clear in his Mar. 22, 2010, opening presentation to the CEAA hearings, when he stated: "Developing Prosperity means draining Fish Lake. We wish it were otherwise. We searched hard for a different way. A way to retain the lake and have the mine. But there is no viable alternative. The lake and the deposit sit side by side. It is not possible to have one without the loss of the other."

3. The point was emphasised by TML's VP of engineering, Scott Jones, who stated: "What happens to the water quality in Fish Lake, if you try and preserve that body of water with the tailings facility right up against it, is that over time the water quality in Fish Lake will become equivalent to the water quality in the pore water of the tailings facility, particularly when it's close."

4. This proposal does not address the issues that led to the rejection of the first bid last year. Fish Lake will be affected by the toxic waste and eventually die, and it will be surrounded by a massive open pit mine and related infrastructure for decades. The Tsilhqot'in people will not have access to their spiritual place, and the area will never be returned to the current pristine state.

It is not even new. It is "Mine Development Plan 2." TML states on page 20 of its project submission: "Option 2 is the basis for the New Prosperity design ...The concepts that lead to the configuration of MDP Option 2 have been utilized to develop the project description currently being proposed."

5. This option was looked at and rejected last year by the company, Environment Canada and the CEAA review panel. For example, page 65 of the review report states: "The Panel agrees with the observations made by Taseko and Environment Canada that Mine Development Plans 1 and 2 would result in greater long-term environmental risk than the preferred alternative."

6. The new $300 million in proposed spending is to cover the costs of relocating mine waste a little further away. There is nothing in the 'new' plan to mitigate all the environmental impacts identified in the previous assessment.

TML states in its economic statement: "The new development design, predicated on higher long term prices for both copper and gold, would result in a direct increase in capital costs of $200 million to purchase additional mining equipment to relocate the tailings dam and to move the mine waste around Fish Lake to new locations. This redesign also adds$100 million in direct extra operating costs over the 20-year mine life to accomplish that task."

In fact, this new spending is actually $37 million less than the company said last year it would have to spend just to go with the option that it and the review panel agreed would be worse for the environment.

7. The federal government is required under the Constitution to protect First Nations, which have been found to be under serious threat in this case, and is internationally committed to do so under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. These duties are every bit as clear regarding this resubmitted proposal.

8. Approving this mine would show the Environmental Assessment process is meaningless, and would demonstrate that governments are ignoring their obligations - as the Assembly of First Nations national chiefs-in-assembly made this crystal clear this summer in their resolution of support for the Tsilhqot'in.

9. The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans has opposed this project since it was first raised in 1995. It soundly rejected it again last year. It has no reason to support it now. Nor does Environment Canada, which, as the CEAA report noted last year, also found option 2 to be worse than the original bid.

10. There are many other more worthy projects to be pursued - the vast majority of which, if not all will require working with aboriginal communities. Natural Resources Canada estimates there is $350 billion-$500 billion worth of such potential projects in Canada. Governments, industry and investors do not need to go backwards by pushing this confrontational proposal and rebuffing efforts by First Nations to find a way to create a better mining system that would benefit everyone in the long run.

For further information:

Media Contacts: Chief Marilyn Baptiste: 250-267-1401 Chief Joe Alphonse: 250-305-8282

B.C. mining company sues environmental advocacy group for defamation

Canadian Press

1 March 2012

VANCOUVER - The company behind a controversial mining proposal in British Columbia has filed a lawsuit against one of its critics, alleging an environmental group has made inaccurate and defamatory comments that threaten to mislead the public.

Taseko Mines Ltd. filed a notice of claim in B.C. Supreme Court on Thursday targeting the Western Canada Wilderness Committee and one of its employees over statements the environmental group has made about the company's New Prosperity gold and copper project.

The project has faced fierce opposition from environmentalists and local First Nations communities and was rejected by a federal government environmental review in 2010.

Late last year, Ottawa agreed to hear a second environmental review after Taseko promised changes designed to address environmental concerns - but those changes have done little to quiet opponents such as the Wilderness Committee.

Taseko's lawsuit focuses specifically on postings to the group's website and Facebook account that claim the New Prosperity proposal will harm Fish Lake and Little Fish Lake.

The notice of claim says the online postings wrongly allege the Taseko mine will deposit toxic material into the lakes, turn them into tailings ponds and pollute the headwaters of a major river system.

The company also says the group has wrongly accused Taseko of failing to address concerns raised by a federal environmental review and attempting to deceive the B.C. and federal governments.

The notice of claim, which contains unproven allegations that haven't been tested in court, asks for damages and an injunction to have the online material removed.

"Taseko welcomes a full, thorough and open process to evaluate the merits of the New Prosperity project," Russell Hallbauer, CEO of Taseko, said in a news release issued Thursday.

"We cannot, however, stand idly by when certain parties such as the Western Canada Wilderness Committee mislead the public."

Joe Foy, national campaign director for the Western Canada Wilderness Committee, dismissed the legal action as a "slap lawsuit" designed to silence criticism.

Foy said his group plans to defend itself against the lawsuit, and he suggested the company's notice of claim doesn't accurately reflect what's currently on the Wilderness Committee's website.

Foy noted the Wilderness Committee made changes in recent weeks after complaints from the company. For example, the web page quoted in the notice of claim no longer refers to Fish Lake as a "tailings pond."

"We called Taseko mines and told them we did not think anything we said was actionable, that we were willing to look at the thing that we had up on our website and make some changes, which we did," Foy said in an interview.

"We feel we behaved reasonable in this, but we do not agree that we're guilty of libel so we'll defend ourselves in court."

Earlier this week, a court overturned an injunction that was preventing exploration work at the proposed site, located 125 kilometres southwest of Williams Lake, B.C.

In December, the Tsilqhot'in First Nation was granted a court injunction to stop Taseko from undertaking exploratory work. The band wanted the court to keep the mining firm out of its territory, preventing it from doing any work until the B.C. Appeal Court rules on the band's case involving aboriginal title in certain claim areas.

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