Transboundary Watershed Alliance
Canadian Field Coordinator
302 Hawkins Street, Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada Y1A 3T3
tel. 867-668-5098 — fax 867-668-6637
~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Rivers Without Borders ~~~~~~~~~~~~~
(Atlin) In a surprise move today, the BC Liberal government defied the BC Supreme and Appeal Courts, the Federal government, and the Taku River Tlingit First Nation by giving their approval to the Tulsequah Chief mine and road proposal. The mine was first granted a project certificate in 1997, but the Taku River Tlingit First Nation launched a legal challenge and had the certificate struck down in BC Supreme Court in 2000. The Province of BC appealed that decision, but lost that challenge as well in a BC Appeal Court decision earlier this year.
"Today's decision is a politically driven snub to the Taku River Tlingit First Nation and the British Columbia Appeals Court." said Margot Venton of the Sierra Legal Defense Fund. "The BC Supreme and Appeal Courts clearly stated that the Province had to demonstrate meaningful consultation with the Tlingit and make a decision that reflects the Tlingit's sustainability concerns. They clearly have not done so."
The Province has stated that the mine will only go ahead "subject to stringent conditions", but the three written conditions in the Provincial Backgrounder are in fact either vague and unenforceable or a rehashing of ideas that even its own scientists and experts have rejected as unworkable.
The decision demonstrates that the Province is operating with much lower environmental and First Nation consultation standards than the federal government. Herb Klassen of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, representing federal oversight in the Assessment of the Tulsequah Chief, wrote a letter in June of this year which detailed a wide spectrum of outstanding concerns relating to adverse impacts from the mine on the rich Taku salmon fishery, water quality, wildlife, air quality, human health, the local economy, physical and cultural heritage, land use planning, and other values. Among the over one hundred outstanding issues outlined in the letter are that impacts from constructing and operating the mine facilities and road would likely include "destruction of fish and fish habitat", that "local grizzly bear populations would be extirpated", "a population decline leading to the demise of the East Atlin [caribou] herd", "permanent decreases or demise of the local moose populations", and thwarting of the "TRTFN's intentions to design protection measures for their traditional territories, community health and future well-being."
"The federal government understands that this mine is unsustainable, poorly conceived and poses a grave threat to the Taku watershed and to the way of life of the Taku River Tlingit First Nation," said David MacKinnon of the Transboundary Watershed Alliance. "We are expecting the Federal government (DFO, DIAND, DFAIT, and Environment Canada), to reject this project on numerous grounds now that the BC Liberals have shirked their responsibilities to appease their rich and powerful friends in the mining sector."