The Tsilhqot’in Nation is in BC Supreme Court in Victoria today challenging a provincial drilling permit issued to Taseko Mines Limited.
The permit approves an extensive drilling program by Taseko Mines to advance its rejected New Prosperity Mine project. It authorizes Taseko to clear 76 kilometres of new or modified trails, 122 exploratory drill holes, 367 excavated test pits and 20 kilometres of seismic lines near Fish Lake, known to the Tsilhqot’in as Teztan Biny, an area of cultural and spiritual significance for the Tsilhqot’in.
“It’s a very typical work program typical of mine operations or mine development anywhere in the province,” said Taseko Mines Vice President of Corporate Affairs Brian Battison in an interview on July 20, 2017. “We applied for a notice of work back in November of 2016. The province purports to turn those kind of routine permits in around 60 days.”
“This one took obviously a lot than 60 days. During that 10 month period, the province worked very closely with the the Tsilhqot’in in this instance to consult with them, to inform them of the work that’s being proposed, and to help them understand that process so there was a lot of interaction…That resulted in the granting of the notification of work that should have of come out in 60-70 days.”
A permit was issued to Taseko Mines on July 14, just four days before new BC Premier John Horgan and his Cabinet were sworn in.
“This happened while wildfires ravaged the Tsilhqot’in region and Tsilhqot’in communities worked to protect their homes and their future, while attempting to relocate elders, children and others to safety,” said the TNG in a media release.
“Taseko Mines is a major donor to the BC Liberal party. According to the Elections B.C. website, Taseko Mines Ltd. donated $123,450 to the BC Liberal Party between 2008 and 2014.”
Within two days of notice of the approval of the drilling permits, the Tsilhqot’in filed the following in BC Supreme Court:
- a Petition seeking to quash the permit for breach of the duty to consult and accommodate;
- a Notice of Civil Claim seeking to quash the permits as unjustified infringements of proven and established Tsilhqot’in hunting, trapping and fishing rights in the area; and, an injunction in each proceeding that would prohibit Taseko from conducting the drilling program pending the hearing and determination of these cases.
The injunction applications are being argued beginning today, Monday July 31 in BC Supreme Court in Victoria.
On Friday, July 28, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency also wrote to Taseko Mines Ltd. advising that the drilling program is illegal under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012.
Public opposition to the proposed New Prosperity Mine has been significant over the past several years and is growing every day.
A petition to the Premier of BC to Save Fish Lake currently has over 7,300 signatures. In addition, a Feather from Fish Lake social media campaign launched today, and the public is invited to upload videos to support Tsilhqot’in efforts.
“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, and in Xeni Gwet’in’s trapline, an area with one of Canada’s only Court Declarations of Aboriginal Rights,” said Chief Roger William, Chief of the Xeni Gwet’in First Nations Government and Vice-Chair of the Tsilhqot’in National Government.
“We are confident that the BC Supreme Court will hear our concerns and grant an injunction against any drilling activity by Taseko.The BC NDP have inherited this mess from the previous government, and we hope they will act to make things right.”