Prosperity Mine Declined Again
By Tyson Kelsall, Culture Editor
Taseko Minerals Ltd.’s proposed New Prosperity Mine, near Williams Lake BC, has been shot down for a second time by the Conservative federal government. The first time was in 2010. Many of the opposed, especially the Tsilhqot’in National Government, worked tirelessly to expose the environmental risks associated with the proposal. In the end, Canadian Environmental Minister Leona Aglukkaq announced that the Prosperity proposal “is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects that cannot be mitigated.”
Taseko believes their plan is environmentally sound – so much so that they are going to pursue setting up the mine for a third time. Some, including Cariboo-Prince George MP, Dick Harris have come out in support of Taseko, as has BC Liberal Bill Bennett. Bennett, who is the BC minister in charge of mining, even took a trip to Ottawa in December to push the issue with some of Harper’s cabinet, including Natural Resource Minister Joe Oliver.
Bennett and Harris, like Taseko, claim that the employment and financial wealth that the mine will bring the community is worth the risk, or they believe there is no real risk at all. In a news release, Harris stated, “The decision by the federal government…has shattered the hopes and dreams of thousands of people in the Cariboo-Chilcotin” and “In the days ahead I will reflect on what more I could have done. But the regret will take its toll for much longer, especially when reflecting on how this decision will weigh so heavily upon our tomorrow, and for the people and future generations of the Cariboo-Chilcotin.”
The environmental concerns were far-reaching. Of course, with any mining project there is going to be some opposition. But a non-partisan review board found that the damage caused to Fish Lake would be impossible to restore. CBC reported Tsilhqot’in National Government Chair Joe Alphonse saying that Taseko was “a cancer that just won’t go away.” Prosperity mine was being proposed in an area of pristine wilderness, so it was doubtlessly controversial from the start.
Is this just a Conservative Party of Canada smokescreen to make the British Columbian population feel as if the Conservatives do care about First Nations rights and environmental standards? Is it in hope that British Columbians will then weaken in their staunch opposition in regards to the Northern Gateway pipeline? Prime Minister Harper called the environmental report “very damning” and supported local Aboriginal groups’ unresolved opposition at a talk for Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada. However, the next day, the Guardian reported documents that revealed that the government sees Aboriginal peoples’ rights as an obstruction to resource development plans, not something that should be enhanced.
In any case, Taseko’s battle for Prosperity continues, despite being defeated by a government that has no reputation for protecting nature, nor boosting environmental standards. What will cause the Conservatives to change their minds? Or will Taseko wait until after the 2015 election and hope that Justin Trudeau’s Liberals have a different agenda? After all, Trudeau has already come out in blatant support for Keystone XL and Kinder Morgan’s expansion plan. Or maybe they will wait until after the federal government’s decision on Northern Gateway, and try to sneak in approval when nobody is looking.