The Tsilhqot’in Nation is calling for a safe and peaceful resolution to prevent Taseko Mines Ltd. from doing exploratory drilling for its proposed New Prosperity Mine west of Williams Lake.
The conflict is the latest confrontation in a long legal battle between the Nation, which has declared title rights in the area and the mining company.
On June 13, Taseko gave two-week notice that it planned to begin its drilling program on Tuesday, July 2 in an area 125 kilometres southwest of Williams Lake at Teztan Biny (Fish Lake).
In a statement issued Tuesday, the Tsilhqot’in Nation said it wants TML to stand down on the drilling program and not bring machinery and personnel to the site. The nation is also asking the B.C. government to step up and help resolve the issue.
“The Tsilhqo’tin Nation opposes this drilling program as an imminent violation of its human rights under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” the statement noted.
Teztan Biny is located in traditional Tsilhqot’in territory and includes 300,000 hectares of wilderness and wildlife habitat. It is just outside of the 1,900 square kilometre area in which the TNG won title over in a historic 2014 Supreme Court of Canada ruling, but still within a broader area under land claim.
Tribal chair Chief Joe Alphonse told the Tribune to develop a mine in that area would be the equivalent of “vandalizing a church.”
“Taseko’s project has been rejected two times by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency – there’s no chance it will ever get built,” he added.
Since the permit was first issued in the summer of 2017, the Tsilhqot’in Nation has appealed it several times, however, on June 13, the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed the latest appeal.
Russell Hallbauer, president and CEO of Taseko, said after the ruling by the SCC it was an important point in time.
“The law has been tested at the highest levels, the legal challenges are over, the permit is sound, the work can and will proceed,” Hallbauer said in a press release. “What this ruling does mean is that we are taking the steps necessary to get closer to the day when such a decision can be made to build New Prosperity.”
Hallbauer said the site for the proposed mine contains the largest undeveloped copper-gold deposit in Canada and easily among the top 15 in the word.