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Tsilhqot'in Launch Court Case Against Exploration Approvals

WILLIAMS LAKE, BC. Nov. 11, 2011: 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.

The Tsilhqot’in Nation and the Xeni Gwet’in (one of the Tsilhqot’in communities closest to the proposed mine) filed a petition for judicial review of the approvals yesterday. The petition alleges that Crown officials breached their duties to consult and accommodate the Tsilhqot’in and failed to extend even “the most basic courtesies of consultation”, such as notice that approvals for drilling and road construction were granted. Six weeks after the approval for this work, the Tsilhqot’in are still waiting for a rationale for the decision.

Xeni Gwet’in Chief Marilyn Baptiste said that the Tsilhqot’in consider the affected area “a cultural school, a place for social gatherings, a ‘grocery store’ for country foods, and a place for ceremony”. Last November, the Federal Government rejected the original Prosperity Mine proposal, based on a scathing report by an independent federal panel highlighting a host of environmental and cultural impacts, including “high magnitude” and “irreversible” impacts on Tsilhqot’in traditional use in this area of “unique and special significance to the Tsilhqot’in”.

“This company went through years of exploration for its failed first bid,” said Chief Baptiste, “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.”

“We’re talking about serious impacts for our rights and our culture,” said Chief Joe Alphonse, Tribal Chair of the Tsilhqot’in National Government. “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”.

Their lawyer, Jay Nelson, said: “it’s alarming that the Province didn’t take basic steps like notifying the Tsilhqot’in when it approved the drilling and road construction in this area. It handed the company this approval six weeks ago and the Tsilhqot’in are still waiting for a rationale for the decision. We all know this is a high conflict situation, and this kind of disrespect only throws fuel on the fire”.

Posted by: Admin. Friday Nov 11, 2011 14:57
Categories: Taseko, Tsilhqot'in | Tags: court case, ecosystem, Fish Lake, Taseko, Tsilhqot'in, Xeni Gwet'in

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