Drilling permits have been quietly approved for the twice rejected New Prosperity Mine project as Tsilhqot’in communities are being deeply impacted by wildfires that continue to rage in their territory.
Taseko Mines said in a statement Tuesday that they received approval from the Province to undertake a site investigation program to conduct exploratory work at the New Prosperity Gold-Copper project site under a multi year permit which will allow them to gather information for the purpose of advancing mine permitting.
The proposed mine which would require specific authorizations from the Federal Government, according to President and CEO of Taseko Russell Hallbauer employ approximately 600 people and generate significant wealth for the Cariboo.
“The value of New Prosperity has yet to be unlocked, however, I believe the magnitude of New Prosperity’s benefits are such that it will be developed into a world-class mine with the highest environmental and safety standards, similar to our nearby Gibraltar Mine,” added Hallbauer. “In authorizing Taseko to do this work, the Government of British Columbia is giving us the tools needed to move the project towards its ultimate development.”
Chief of the Xeni Gwet’in First Nation and Vice Chair of the TNG, Roger William says that the permits call into question BC’s commitment to indigenous peoples and is an insult.
“We are in shock. In the midst of B.C.’s worst crisis in decades, while our elders and children are threatened by wildfire, BC decides to add insult to injury by granting these permits. BC disregarded the immense record showing the importance of this area for our culture and approved extensive ground disturbance for a mine that cannot lawfully be built. Our people are understandably angry and cannot believe that BC would approve more destruction in an area of such spiritual and cultural importance for us. Especially when we are experiencing a state of emergency. We thought that we were in a new era, a post-Tsilhqot’in decision era. These permits call into question BC’s commitment to Indigenous peoples. It is an insult to the Tsilhqot’in people and to this new era of truth and reconciliation.”
The Tsilhqot’in Nation says that will will challenge the B.C. permits which authorizes 76 km of new or modified trails, 122 drill holes, 367 test pits dug by an excavator, and 20 km of seismic lines near Teztan Biny and Nabas in court.
The BC Supreme Court previously granted an injunction in 2011 to the Tsilhqot’in Nation to halt a much smaller proposed exploration program by Taseko, stating “Each newly cleared trail remains a scar, for although reclamation is required, restoration is impossible. The damage is irreparable.” (Taseko Mines Limited v Phillips, 2011 BCSC 1675, para 65)
Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett, who has not left the South Cariboo, says she was not aware of the permit and that she has been busy with the wildfires.