December 7, 2011
Injunction granted on mine work
A British Columbia Supreme Court judge has ruled in favour of the Tsilhqot'in First nation in a legal battle with Taseko Mines Ltd over a revived proposal for a billion dollar gold mine in central British Columbia.
“Much good will has been wasted with this attempt to bring this terrible project back from the dead, but some of that might be restored if the province were to end its efforts to help the company bulldoze more than 20 kilometres of new roads and drill dozens of new holes in pursuit of an option everyone knows is worse than the plan we defeated last year,” said Xeni Gwet’in Chief Marilyn Baptiste.
“The government and company need to prove, not only to the Tsilhqot’in, but to the public, that this destruction is even necessary for the EA (environmental assessment) process.”
Justice Christopher Grauer granted an injunction on Dec. 2 to prohibit Taseko Mines Ltd from performing exploration work on the site of the new proposed Prosperity Mine near Williams Lake, B.C.
The judge ruled the Tsilhqot’in were not properly consulted on two permits the B.C. government granted Taseko for extensive exploratory work, including roadbuilding, drilling, excavation of test pits and timber clearing.
The B.C. government issued the first of these permits about five weeks before it was known that there would be a second federal environmental assessment of Taseko’s new proposal.
The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) ruled in early November that the New Prosperity Gold-Copper Mine project will undergo a new environmental assessment, only three months after the original proposal was rejected due to significant environmental impacts.
“We have already soundly defeated this mine proposal once and the option now being pursued has already been declared worse than the original plan,” said Tsilhqot’in Tribal Chair Joe Alphonse. “We are frustrated to be faced with an Environmental Assessment again, but we need to be adequately engaged to assist with the determination of what is exactly necessary with the least amount of disturbance for this process.”
Taseko was seeking an injunction and restraining order against Baptiste and other individuals, who stopped the company from entering the project site on Nov. 12.
The Tsilhqot’in Nation filed an injunction against Taseko on Nov. 14.
The injunction will be in force until a judicial review investigates the provincial permits.
The Tsilhqot’in filed an application to suspend work on the grounds that they were not properly consulted and their serious concerns were ignored. They want the court to keep Taseko out of their traditional territory until the B.C. Appeals Court rules on the band’s case involving Aboriginal title.
B.C. Supreme Court Justice David Vickers ruled in November 2007 that the Tsilhqot’in have proven Aboriginal title to about 200,000 square hectares around Williams Lake.
However, the Tsilhqot’in are appealing the judge’s decision to deny Aboriginal title to an area, which includes the proposed mine site.
In late 2010, the court reserved its decision and set no time frame for releasing its ruling.
Taseko argues the mine site is on Crown Land and the company holds a valid, long-term mineral lease. The company has 12 months to complete the necessary work at the site needed for a second federal government environmental process.
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