Political contributions, DFO letters, raise more questions about BC’s approval of bad mine

(Williams Lake, BC. Fri. Sept. 24) Political contribution records show that Taseko Mines Ltd suddenly began funding the BC Liberal Party as the province moved towards an environmental review of its Prosperity mine proposal.

The company pumped $30,150 into BC liberal coffers over a 12 month period starting in late 2008 as the province geared up for an election and moved towards proceeding with an environmental assessment of the proposed mine.

Records also show that one of Taseko Mine Ltd directors, Richard Mundie, has powerful ties to the party, having signed off on $440,000 in donations to the party from Teck Cominco between 2005 and 2009 when he was an officer with that company.

This information comes a week after it was discovered that the BC government was previously so protective of the Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) area – listed as one of the top ten fishing lakes in the Province – that it refused to allow a relatively minor 35-acre Lodge expansion, yet was later persuaded to accept and advocate for Taseko’s massive, destructive open-pit mine project.

New documents now show that the company and Province insisted on pressing ahead with the mine proposal despite being warned repeatedly – starting in 1995 – by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans that pursing the idea would be a waste of everyone’s time, because neither the DFO nor the minister of environment could approve the loss of this rare and fish-rich lake.

“This money trail helps explain why a government that previously ruled even a small lodge expansion too environmentally unacceptable is now using public funds to champion a company that wants to create an open pit mine with a 35 sq. km footprint that would kill our lake, streams, fish, wildlife, and our rights, culture and way of life,” said Yunesit'in Chief Ivor D. Meyers, Tsilhqot’in National Government.

Xeni Gwet’in Chief Marilyn Baptiste added: “We have always found it unfathomable that all the opposition to this mine over the years, culminating in the damning findings of the CEAA panel, has fallen on deaf ears with the BC government. Perhaps this shows that you have to pay big bucks to be heard.”

Contribution data from Elections BC’s website, along with links to the site’s relevant pages, can be found at www.fnwarm.com. Copies of letters from the Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans rejecting the proposed mine as far back as 1995 can also be found here.

The DFO letters show that the department – which has continued to object to the net losses that would still result from Taseko’s plan to build a small fake lake reservoir to replace Teztan Biny – declared the project out of bounds 15 years ago.

The department warned the company and Province that destroying the top class lake and fishery and not properly replacing that unique habitat was something that neither DFO nor the environment minister could ever permit, and advised them not to pursue it further.

“These letters show that it is not the opponents of this project that have wasted taxpayers and company investors dollars,” said Chief Baptiste.

“BC and Taseko were told 15 years ago to look for alternatives, and instead have spent the intervening time trying to circumvent the rules to kill our lake and lands – and they have had the nerve to publicly portray our First Nations and the many non aboriginals who have resisted their efforts as the unreasonable ones,” said Tl'esqox Chief Francis Laceese, Tsilhqot’in National Government.

“It is now clearer than ever that, as DFO warned 15 years ago, the Minister of Environment has no choice but to reject this mine.”


For more information:
Chief Marilyn Baptiste 250-394-7023 ext 202 / cell 250-267-1401
TNG Tribal Chair Chief Joe Alphonse 250-394-4212 ext 229 / cell 250-305-8282