The Tsilhqot’in Nation says it is extremely disppointed by a B.C Supreme Court ruling denying their bid to stop exploratory drilling in the Teztan Biny area by Taseko Mines Ltd.
The motion was dismissed last week by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Ward K. Branch.
Tribal chairman Chief Joe Alphonse calls the drilling a meaningless project as the Federal Government has twice rejected the proposed the New Prosperity mine making it almost impossible for Taseko to ever move forward with it.
“It’s a little mind boggling. We kind of got caught in crosshairs between the exiting former Liberal party and the new baby NDP party that was coming in,” he said.
“That was like a welcoming present to governing British Columbia so it was a gift of infested blankets as far as we’re concerned.”
The permit authorizes Taseko Mines to clear 76 kilometres of new or modified road and trail, 122 drill holes, 367 excavated test pits and 20 kilometres of seismic lines near Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) and Nabas.
“We still have Aboriginal title and rights so any consultation has to go above and beyond for Chilcotin Nation as far as we’re concerned,” Alphonse said.
“So we’re still weighing our options and we’ll look at ways of protecting because a drilling project like that when there’s no possibly of developing a mine really puts us in a situation where you have to question why would we do this.”
“The drilling project is going to have a huge foot print on the area where some of the most significant archaeological finds has been in that area.”
Taseko Mines Ltd. said in a media release Tuesday that the Supreme Court decision allows Taseko to proceed with investigative work at the New Prosperity site and that it reaffirms Provincial Government authority over mine development in the Province.
“The Government of British Columbia has the authority to approve resource development work even in the face of aboriginal opposition. The Crown’s obligation is to consult with aboriginal people and to accommodate their interests where reasonable to do so. However, there is no duty or obligation to secure aboriginal support for the work being proposed,” said Russell Hallbauer, President and CEO of Taseko Mines Limited.
“Last week’s decision provides important guidance to the evolving and often complex relationship between the constitutional rights of aboriginal people and the responsibilities, duties and obligations the Government has to its citizens and their resources,” Hallbauer added.
“The court’s decision, and reasons for the decision, will be helpful to provincial and federal governments, especially statutory decision makers who carry the responsibility to authorize important resource development projects. These decision makers can now move ahead with their decisions knowing the extent, and the limits, of the duties they owe to resource developers and to aboriginal people alike.”
(Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to comment by Taseko Mines Ltd.)