(Ottawa) MiningWatch Canada regrets that Taseko Mines Ltd. has initiated a lawsuit against the Western Canada Wilderness Committee for allegedly making defamatory and inaccurate comments on Taseko’s proposed “New Prosperity” project. Having been a vocal critic of the project, we would like to assure Taseko, our allies and potential investors that we will continue to research and openly criticize and oppose this project that continues to face stiff opposition from First Nations, environmental, and social justice groups. The reasons for this opposition are many and have been repeated often. We provide a short list below:
- After an extensive review of the original proposed project, including a suite of alternative mine plans, a federal review panel concluded in July of 2010 that the earlier version of the project would have numerous significant adverse effects that could not be mitigated.
- MiningWatch’s review of the latest project description for the “New” Prosperity project leads us to conclude that the currently proposed project is not significantly different from an alternative mine development plan discredited in the previous federal environmental assessment process.*
- Regardless of the specific choice of mine plan it is anticipated that important sensitive natural habitats and cultural areas will be destroyed or degraded by the mine.
- The project continues to be opposed by the potentially affected First Nations, who in turn have the support of regional and national First Nations organizations.
- The proposed mine is in an area where the Tŝilhqot’in Nation has a proven, Constitutionally-protected Aboriginal right to hunt and trap, and where the Tŝilhqot’in Nation claims Aboriginal title in litigation that is still before the courts.
Based on these facts, MiningWatch believes that the Union of BC Indian Chiefs Grand Chief Phillip Stewart put it well when he stated that the proposed mine is “the wrong project in the wrong place owned by the wrong company.”
The lawsuit also comes after a successful campaign led by another environmental group, the Sierra Club of BC, that encouraged people to submit comments on the draft guidelines and review the panel’s terms of reference. Over 1,500 people submitted comments using the Sierra Club’s website.
“Though we regret the actions of Taseko against the Wilderness Committee, it’s honestly not that big a surprise that Taseko would act this way” observed Ramsey Hart, MiningWatch’s Canada Program Coordinator. “Over the course of the environmental assessment we have observed a number of actions that Taseko has taken that, in our view, are not consistent with good practices for building trust and positive relationships with stakeholders.” These actions include:
- Pressuring the BC government to withdraw from a joint review panel process supported by First Nations and environmental groups and “go it alone” in 2008.
- An attempt to have one of the original federal review panel members, Naline Morin, a First Nations woman with a career working in the mining industry, removed on the presumption of bias.
- An attempt to prevent showing of the video Blue Gold during the review panel hearings. The video was created for the Tŝilhqot’in Nation in order to explain their connection to the land where the project is located, to give voice to their concerns and show images of the area to the panel members.
Hart, who participated in the first review process, further comments that, “We remain committed to speaking out about this project. Based on the information we’ve seen to date, we are confident in our analysis and in the many as-yet unresolved problems we and others have identified.” MiningWatch will continue its collaboration with other NGOs and will continue to work in solidarity with the Tŝilhqot’in and Esketemc First Nations in their opposition.
* Following MiningWatch’s review of the latest project description for the “New” Prosperity mine, we are of the opinion that the revised project was already considered by the first federal review panel (as alternative Mine Development Plan 2). At page 50 of its report, the original panel stated that it “agrees with the observations made by [Taseko] and Environment Canada that Mine Development Plans 1 and 2 would result in greater long-term environmental risk” than the original “preferred” alternative (namely, the alternative rejected by the original panel in July 2010 and by the Government of Canada in November 2010).
– 30 –
For more information contact:
Ramsey Hart, Canada Program Coordinator, MiningWatch Canada (613) 298-4745 (cell)