Tag Archives: Fish Lake/Teztan Biny

Members of the Tsilhqot’in Nation and their supporters protest outside of Taseko Mines' Vancouver offices last year

Tsilhqot’in Nation Goes to Court Over BC Govt’s Exploration Approvals for Prosperity Mine


The Tsilhqot’in Nation is firing back at the BC Government with legal action following the confirmation this past Friday that the Province has issued permits to Taseko Mines for work related to its proposed Prosperity Mine at Fish Lake, West of Williams Lake.

According to a press release issued by the aboriginal government, “The Tsilhqot’in Nation has launched a court challenge asking the B.C. Supreme Court to invalidate or suspend approvals granted by British Columbia to Taseko Mines Limited for extensive drilling, excavation, timber clearing, road construction and other exploratory work for its controversial ‘New’ Prosperity Mine.”

Earlier this week, leaders representing the Nation condemned the Clark Government’s decision to award work permits long before the highly controversial project receives federal approvals. The Harper Government confirmed on Monday that an amended proposal for the project it rejected last year will receive a second federal environmental assessment.

The judicial petition filed in the BC Supreme Court alleges the Province neglected to consult and accommodate First Nations regarding the controversial permits.

“This company went through years of exploration for its failed first bid,” said Chief Marilyn Baptiste of the Xeni Gwet’in people, upon whose territory the mine would be built. “Now they want to go back in there and drill more holes, dig nearly 60 test pits and clear over 23 kilometres of road, all for this new mine proposal that the company knows – and has publicly stated – is worse for the environment that its preferred option.  We are appealing to the court to uphold the principles of fairness and justice.”    

Chief Joe Alphonse, Tribal Chair of the Tsilhqot’in National Government added, “We’re talking about serious impacts for our rights and our culture. The Province refused to acknowledge these impacts, no matter what we
say; it is more concerned with handing over approvals.  We’ve gone to
court before, we’ve stood in front of the federal panel, we have proven
over and over again how important these lands are to our people and our
culture – but the Province never seems to get the message.”

The Nation’s legal counsel, Jay Nelson, said the Province secretly approved the permits 6 weeks ago, without alerting his clients. “We all know this is a high conflict situation, and this kind of disrespect only throws fuel on the fire,” he added.    


Province Issues Prosperity Mine Exploration, Road-Building Permits Over Strong First Nations Opposition


Read this story from the Williams Lake Tribune, confirming the Clark Government has already issued permits to Taseko Mines for exploration and road building related to the company’s highly controversial Prosperity Mine – this despite the announcement of a new Federal Panel Review on the company’s updated proposal and the ongoing opposition of local First Nations.

“The permits pertain to on-site work required for engineering purposes
and include permission to build ‘trails’ to move equipment on the
property as well as drilling and test pitting to obtain geotechnical
information for the project’s new dam location. [Taseko Vice-President Brian] Battison said the permits allow for 59 test pits, eight
geotechnical drill holes and 10 diamond drill holes as well as 23.5
kilometres of trail…

…Tsilqot’in National Government chair Joe Alphonse called the issuance
of permits, ‘…drawing a line in the sand.’ He added, ‘I think they
want to know what’s going to happen and I think that’s a good way to
find out.’ Alphonse said there is a general lack of faith in the provincial review process. ‘Whatever process the province is coming up with it has already been pre-approved as far as we’re concerned,’ he said.” (Nov. 8, 2011)

Read full article: http://www.wltribune.com/news/133410023.html


Propserity Mine Gest Second Chance at Federal Review, Over First Nations Opposition


Read this story from CBC.ca confirming that Taseko Mines will get a second chance at a federal panel review with a revised proposal for its Prosperity Mine, in the Chilcotin Territory West of Williams Lake. Meanwhile, First Nations remain vehemently opposed to the project, even in its latest incarnation.

“The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency ordered a new federal
review Monday of the company’s proposal for the New Prosperity Mine,
located 125 kilometres southwest of Williams Lake, B.C. The federal agency initially found an earlier version of Taseko’s
mine environmentally unacceptable. Based on that assessment,
then-environment minister Jim Prentice refused to let the project go
ahead in November 2010.

The review panel will be a group of independent experts selected on
the basis of their knowledge and expertise and appointed by the minister
of the environment. The assessment that Prentice based his judgment on
was a comprehensive study. Those studies are conducted by CEAA staff in
collaboration with environmental experts from various federal
departments.” (Nov. 7, 2011)

Read full article: http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2011/11/07/taseko-environment-mine.html?cmp=rss


Clark Government Fast-Tracks Prosperity Mine


Read this story from Pacific Free Press, including a press release from the Tsilhqot’in National Government on the BC Government’s issuing of fast-tracked permits for Taseko Mines to begin drilling and building roads for its proposed Prosperity Mine.

“The proponent has
already submitted a proposal for “New” Prosperity, a mine alternative
that it has described in the past as even more environmentally damaging.
At the same time, British Columbia recently issued approvals that
authorize the proponent to extensively drill, build roads and clear
trees throughout this area of such critical importance to our people.

The Tsilhqot’in Nation considers the approvals issued by British
Columbia unlawful because of the Province’s failure to meaningfully
consult or accommodate our Nation or to justify the impacts on our
proven Aboriginal rights to hunt and trap throughout those lands. We
remain confident that the Federal Government will continue to do the
right thing and once again reject this clearly unacceptable mine
proposal.” (Nov. 2, 2011)

Read full story: http://www.pacificfreepress.com/news/1-/10083-british-columbia-grants-go-ahead-for-once-denied-qprosperity-mineq.html


A Tale of Two BC Mining Fiascos


There are two mining stories out of last week in Lotusland.

For openers, let’s deal with “Prosperity” Lake which, before the corporate flacks got involved, was called Fish Lake.
The short story is that this is a mine prospect held by Taseko Mines. While the Provincial government approved it, it was turned down by the feds who then gave the company time to put in a new proposal, which they did. With the speed of light the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency received the new application last February and hasn’t yet decided anything. This delay brought a fire and brimstone editorial from the Fraser Institute’s house paper, the Vancouver Sun, which threw unsourced “facts” at us, including a promise of 71,000 jobs with 5,400 new residents for the nearby town of Williams Lake. We’re not told where those figures come from but clearly they’re from the large sack of extravagant statements the Fraser Institute keeps on hand for whenever their definition of capitalism is called to account.
Since the Sun doesn’t state otherwise, we must assume that the 71,000 jobs are for construction of the mine, which is preposterous. Whatever jobs it does take will, based upon long experience, come from outside the province. And are these 5,400 new arrivals necessary to run a mine?
Mr. Mihlar, the Fraser Institute’s editor of The Sun, the think tank’s poodle, should visit an operation of a modern, computerized mine before throwing numbers around.
A neat line in the editorial refers to outside agitators, I can only hope that I and fellow environmentalists are amongst them. The thought that environmentalists are outside agitators brings a sense of deep pride; how rewarding it is to be compared to the “freedom fighters” in the American South in the Sixties.
It’s so much like the Fraser Institute’ poodle, the Sun, to pretend they are not “outside agitators”.
The Sun’s call for putting the Taseko Prosperity Mine on the fast track is code for “approve at once” and ignores the fact that First Nations people and we outside agitators have yet to be heard from on the new proposition.
If I were able to cross-examine the company and their flacks my question would be: Why didn’t you submit your amended proposal in the first place? (The proposal existed, in fact, but the company insisted it wasn’t “economically viable”, before suddenly changing its tune the day after the first proposal was rejected). Can we assume that if you’re turned down for proposal #2, you have “proposition 3” in your ass pocket?
It’s interesting that Mr. Milhar doesn’t deal with the environmental concerns that remain, with attention be paid to the threats of damage to other waters especially to migrating salmon streams. Even though the company’s latest proposal seeks to avoid destroying Fish Lake, it still threatens Fish Creek, Taseko Lake and the Taseko River – important salmon habitat that eventually connects with the Fraser River.
It’s also interesting that the Fraser Institute/Sun combination believes that where development and the environment clash development must carry the day.
This infomercial of Mr. Milhar should help us start the great debate, namely, what do British Columbians want to be – one of the blessed lands where commercial intrusion is secondary to environmental preservation or a place where when a conflict occurs, industry holds all the trumps?
Then there’s the Boss Power case – a uranium property which has cost the taxpayers $30 million to settle. If the Liberals had continued the no uranium policy brought into force by the excellent Environment Minister in 1979 (name provided upon demand) this issue would not have come up.
As Mike Smyth of the Province stated in a column last week, this case has the same stench the BC Rail case had – gross negligence of staggering proportions that, as with the BC Rail case, best not let a judge with an open courtroom sniff around.
There is another angle to this story not given sufficient attention.
First a bit of background.
Ministers have the right to have their policies implemented by the public servants however much they may not want to; what ministers cannot do is interfere with a public servant who’s doing as a statute compels him to do. Registrars under various different statutes are usually under a statute which sets the rules he must administer – he has no options.
For a minister to try to influence the administration of a statutory obligation would, in a decent government, be forced to resign.  
In this case the company was making an application to The Chief Inspector of Mines for a permit to drill. The chief inspector has a statutory obligation to receive and pass judgments – ministerial interference is highly improper.
The then Minister of Mines, Kevin Krueger, instructed the Inspector to ignore the company’s application to drill. This is so improper that the minister should have resigned or, failing that, been fired forthwith.
What this case shows is that the Campbell/Clark government has the morality of an alley cat (with apologies to the feline community). Read alongside the BC Rail cover-up we see tawdry, sloppy ministers with no clue about what ministerial impropriety means and with a contempt for process an integral part of their modus operandi.
These two stories, read together, show an alarming disinterest in real values and respect for the public’s right to know the facts and the ability to be heard. The Vancouver Sun editorial, when you think on it, takes the breath away – process means let’s get on with it! Corporation “facts” must be considered holy writ and the process an ill-disguised sham – a quick, pro forma minor nuisance.
British Columbians must decide what sort of place they and what values they hold. And since the next major decisions will be pipelines and tankers, the sooner the better.


First Nations Leaders Respond to Barabara Yaffe’s Provocative Column on BC Resource Projects


Read this scathing response to a recent column by the Vancouver Sun’s Barbara Yaffe, titled “First Nations Need to Embrace Resource Projects” – from the Vice Tribal Chief of the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council and the Tribal Chief of the Tsilhqot’in National Government. (Aug 2, 2011)



Rejected Prosperity Mine Project Makes New Bid


From CBC.ca – Feb 21, 2011

Owners of B.C.’s controversial Prosperity mine have launched a second attempt to get the $1-billion project approved.

The gold and copper mine near Williams Lake was opposed by First
Nations and ultimately failed an environmental assessment, released in
July 2010 by the federal environment ministry.

The B.C. environment ministry had already aproved the project

On Monday, Taseko Mines Ltd., of Vancouver, submitted a revised plan
for the mine that addressed the major concern of both natives and
officials — the proposed destruction of Fish Lake.

The original proposal called for the lake to be drained and turned
into a dump for toxic tailings from the mine, poisoning much of the
watershed in which it lies.

That would wipe out 90,000 rainbow trout, according to the Tsilhqot’in and Secwepemc First Nations.

The company said there was no alternative.

Metal prices up sharply

Taseko’s new proposal now would preserve Fish Lake and all its aquatic life, the company said.

What’s changed is the price of gold and copper, making it possible to
pay for a more expensive solution to the waste problem, said CEO
Russell Hallbauer.

“Price projections for copper average about $2.50 [per pound] and for
gold above $1,000 [per ounce], nearly two times the prices we used in
our original assessment,” Hallbauer said. “We are now able to consider
and advance this new design proposal which adds construction costs and
life of mine operating expenditures of approximately $300 million.”

The company said in a release Monday that the proposal greatly
reduces environmental impacts [and] preserves Fish Lake and its

There is no timeline for environmental approval, but Taseko said it
hoped the environmental assessment would only have to review the aspects
of the proposal that have changed.

Read original article

Fish Lake (Teztan Biny), saved - for now - from a proposed mine

What a Week for BC’s Environment!


Before I get into listing off several significant recent successes for the growing
legions battling to save our precious environment and farmland in BC, I want to provide a disclaimer – right up front – because I believe it is essential to this

There is no such thing as an absolute “victory” in environmental campaigning –
especially these days. Such is the rapacious appetite for our resources from
corporations both near and far that we make a serious mistake ever planting the
flag, declaring victory, packing up and going home. If you count yourself as a
serious member of the fight for our environment and public resources, then you must
acknowledge that defending these values is a way of life – a state of mind – and
commit yourself to it for the long haul. Corporations have no “off switch” –
especially when billions are at stake.

That said, sometimes it is important to pause ever so briefly to acknowledge the
dedication and sacrifices that yield those elusive environmental “victories” (in the
temporary sense, as noted). I am rather fond of champagne, and permit myself more
occasions to enjoy it than just the annual rendition of “Auld Lang Syne.” If you
agree – or have some other preferred method of celebration – then I suggest right
now is as good a moment as any to indulge.

Why, you ask?

Two lengthy and hard-fought campaigns have recently produced laudable “wins” that
deserve recognition and rejoicing: The first is for the protection of Fish Lake, in
the Tsilqot’in territory west of Williams Lake, from the proposed Prosperity Gold
and Copper Mine; the second is for several important pieces of farmland in the Lower
Mainland, threatened by commercial development and highway construction respectively
(more on those in a moment).

As for Fish Lake, months of tense speculation – awaiting the Federal Environment
Minster’s official decision following an Environmental Assessment Federal Review
Panel that recommended against the proposal – were put to an end this week, as the
ministry issued the following statement:

The Government of Canada today announced decisions on two gold-copper mine project
proposals in British Columbia. The proposal for the Mount Milligan mine, near
Prince George, has been granted federal authorizations to proceed. However, the
Prosperity mine project as proposed, near Williams Lake, cannot be granted federal
authorizations to proceed due to concerns about the significant adverse
environmental effects of the project.
(emphasis mine)

“The Government has considered both projects carefully, particularly their
environmental impacts,” said Environment Minister, Jim Prentice. “We believe in
balancing resource stewardship with economic development. The Mount Milligan
project has been designed in a way that minimizes impacts to the environment, while
the significant adverse environmental effects of the Prosperity project cannot be
justified as it is currently proposed.”…

…In making its decision, the Government of Canada took into consideration the
conclusions of the report of the Federal Review Panel, and agreed with the Panel’s
conclusions about the environmental impacts of the project.

Re: my earlier disclaimer, pay careful attention here to the words “as proposed”
which leave the door open to a redesign and re-submission of this proposal at a
later date. Which is why anyone who cares about this lake, home to 85,000 rainbow
trout, and the people and critters who depend on it, would be foolish to declare
victory and call it a day. This project is worth something on the order of $20
Billion, which is a lot of reasons for the proponent, Taseko Mines, not to give up
easily – and for us to remain on guard.

And yet, the significance of this “win” should not be underestimated. Chief Marilyn
Baptiste of the Xeni Gwet’in First Nation, in whose traditional territory Fish Lake
(or Teztan Biny) is located, should be congratulated for her courageous stance,
which included
some very bold words
to both the federal government and project proponent as to how far
she and her people were prepared to go to stop this insane project. And, for the
time being, it seems to have paid off.

This decision from the ministry also sets an important precedent, as it well knows –
which likely contributed to the several month delay on its decision. You see, Fish
Lake was only one of some 20 viable fish-bearing lakes across the country that have
been earmarked for wanton destruction by mining operations, all to save these
companies the expense of building their own tailing ponds and impoundment lots. In
this case, the plan was to drain the lake, convert it into a rock impoundment area,
mine beneath it and around it for gold and copper – and create a new man-made lake,
with the Orwellian moniker of “Prosperity Lake”, to replace it. At a time when the
very same Ministry of Environment acknowledges that less than half of our fresh
water in Canada is of “fair to good quality”, this sort of proposal can only be
properly termed insane. Thus, getting the government to implicitly recognize this
fact is important not just for Fish Lake, but for all of Canada.

So it is for these reasons that we should all take a moment to salute the monumental
achievement of Chief Baptiste, her people, and all the environmentally-minded
citizens around BC and across Canada who banded together in support to help make
this historic decision a reality.

Just as our federal environment ministry warns of our diminishing water quality, so
does our provincial Ministry of Agriculture and Lands warn of our increasingly
imperilled food security. We in BC only produce 48% of our total food locally, and
just 43% of our vegetables, down from 86% in 1970!
The ministry tells us we need to
add over 200,000 acres of arable farmland in the Fraser Valley just to be able to
feed ourselves into the future, which is why destroying any of our existing agricultural land – some of the best in the world – for highways, residences, or industry, is
also simply insane.

To this end, we can thank the tireless farmland defenders in the Lower Mainland who
went to bat for and recently secured the protection of two important pieces of
agricultural land in the region – Maple Ridge’s 200-acre Pelton Estate Farm from
proposed commercial development; and the historic Hudson’s Bay Farm in Langley from highway paving. In both cases, citizens persuaded the Agricultural Land Commission
to reject applications to remove these pieces of land from the protection of the
ALR; in the case of the Hudson’s Bay Farm it was the first time the ALC has rejected
a proposal for highway building under the Campbell regime.

This from the Farmland Defence League’s Donna Passmore on these two historic

Both proposals were hard fought by farmland & food security advocates across the
province. On the Pelton Estates issue, Diana Williams, Chair of the Pitt Polder
Preservation Society and her team deserve to take a few deep bows. Thanks, also
to Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows MLA Michael Sather, novelist Annette Lebox, Matt Laity,
as well as Councillors Candace Gordon and Craig Speirs.

The hard fight to protect Langley’s historic Hudson’s Bay Farm was waged by the
Mufford, Davis & Smith families, all of whom have been working that land for more
than 100 years. Doug McFee, Sonya Paterson, Dean Holcombe, Jacob DeRaadt, Allan
Robinson, Bays Blackhall, federal deputy Green Leader Adriane Carr, Heather
Pritchard (Farm Folk/City Folk), Lynn Perrin (Abbotsford Director, Farmland
Defence League of BC), Cathleen Vecchiato (Langley Co-Chair, Farmland Defence
League of BC), federal Langley NDP Candidate Piotr Majkowski, Judi Tyabji, and
literally hundreds of other people. Special recognition goes to Langley Township
Mayor Rick Green, who fought hard to protect this land and ensure that the people
of Langley had a say in the matters. And special thanks to BC NDP Agriculture
Critic Lana Popham, who threw her support behind the families living and working on
Hudson’s Bay Farm.

Two other noteworthy recent developments – not in the “victory” category (even of
the temporary variety), but significant nonetheless:

1. Last week the Cohen Commission on disappearing Fraser River sockeye – under
pressure from the conservationist coalition presenting to the Inquiry – ordered BC’s
salmon farming industry to disclose more of the disease data they’ve been hiding.
It’s only 21 farms out of 120 total tenures, but there may be more to follow. To the
salmon farmers: If there’s nothing wrong with your operations and you have nothing
to hide, then release it ALL, voluntarily! Otherwise, follow the example of your corporate masters in Oslo and quit pretending everything’s hunky-dory (the global CEOs of the two biggest Norwegian fish farm operators in Canada long ago admitted their farms cause problems for wild fish).

2. Under intense pressure at public hearings last week, Delta Council refrained from
rezoning a controversial 500-acre piece of farmland, known as the Southlands, to
allow for proposed residential development. Much more work needs to be done here to
get that farmland permanently protected and back to producing food for the region
like it once did, but the community’s unwavering defence of the land is heartening
to say the least.

So, pour yourselves a glass of scotch, bubbly, fruit juice, whatever you fancy, take
a moment away from your tireless work protecting our environment – and pat
yourselves and your colleagues on the back for the sacrifices you all make, and for
those rare moments, such as we saw this past week, when they produce a glimmer of
hope amid the bad news with which we’re so often inundated…

Then get back at it – there’s much work to be done!


Prentice Kills Taseko’s Mine at Fish Lake


The federal government has killed a plan for an open-pit mine in Fish Lake, B.C.  “The project as it was proposed would result in the destruction of
Fish Lake and the destruction as well of a complex and highly productive
ecosystem that included … dozens of connecting streams, wetlands and
aquatic life,” Environment Minister Jim Prentice said Tuesday. Read Toronto Sun article