The Tŝilhqot’in Nation welcomes news that the Federal Government has commenced its own court action to permanently prohibit Taseko Mines Ltd. from carrying out its drilling program at Teztan Biny (Fish Lake).
The Federal Government filed a petition in the BC Supreme Court on August 10, asserting that Taseko’s drilling program would violate the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012, and seeking a permanent injunction to prohibit Taseko from undertaking this work.
“There is no public purpose served in allowing Taseko to cause listed environmental effects in pursuit of a mine that has twice been denied the necessary Federal environmental assessment approval as a result of unjustified significant adverse environmental effects.” Federal Government Petition to BC Supreme Court (Canada v Taseko Mines Limited, para. 45)
As a result of the Federal Government’s intervention, and a commitment from Taseko that it will not proceed with the drilling program at this time, the BC Supreme Court has withheld its decision on the interlocutory injunction application argued by the Tsilhqot’in two weeks ago.
“We commend the Federal Government for demonstrating the leadership to enforce its environmental laws and to help us ensure that Taseko cannot continue to tear up a very special place to our people, all for a project that has been rejected and cannot be built,” said Chief Roger William, Chief of the Xeni Gwet’in First Nations Government and Vice-Chair of the Tŝilhqot’in National Government (TNG) in a media release.
“It sends a powerful message to our people that the Government of Canada also considers Taseko’s drilling program illegal and is ready to go to court to protect our interests and the environment. This is Xeni Gwet’in’s trapline and inside one of Canada’s only Court Declarations of Aboriginal rights.”
The Tsilhqot’in Nation had previously brought legal challenges to the Province’s approval for Taseko to conduct extensive drilling, road building and excavation at the Tŝilhqot’in sacred site of Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) and Nabas. The provincial permit was granted in the dying days of the BC Liberal Government, in support of the rejected New Prosperity Mine proposal.
Taseko’s New Prosperity mine-a proposed $1.5 billion open-pit copper and gold mine in an area where the Tsilhqot’in Nation has established aboriginal rights, and 125 kilometres southwest of Williams Lake, was rejected in the Government of Canada in 2014. Prior to taking court action, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency advised the company that the provincially approved drilling program would violate the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012.
“The work our Nation has done to protect Teztan Biny is worth celebrating. The Tsilhqot’in Nation has poured its energy into two Federal assessment processes and has maintained the same position: this is the wrong place for mining activity. It remains clear that we do not want this place disturbed and can only pray that Taseko Mines will respect this,” says Chief Russell Myers Ross, Chief of Yunesit’in and Director of the TNG.
“As a leader of Yunesit’in, I intend on investing time through the Dasiqox Tribal Park to define what we want to see in Nabas and Teztan Biny.”
The Tŝilhqot’in Nation has launched a public campaign calling on the BC NDP to do the right thing and that consent matters to Canadians. As of today, the petition to Premier John Horgan has gathered over 8,000 signatures.