Wendy Stueck is a reporter for the Globe and Mail, Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous impact and influence on Canada’s political and business elite as well as the rest of the country’s print, radio and television media.
Aboriginals and pro-development groups are on a collision course as they await decision on $800-million B.C. mining project
On the surface, Fish Lake looks serene – a sun-dappled body of water where fish jump in the shadows of snow-capped mountains.
But this lake, about 125 kilometres southwest of Williams Lake in British Columbia’s rugged Chilcotin Territory, is the heart of a battle that has put the federal and provincial governments on a collision course, pitted predominantly aboriginal concerns about the environment against the prospect of jobs and investment in a hard-pressed region, and raised fears of violent confrontations if a proposed mine goes ahead.
The federal government is to make a final decision on the proposed Prosperity copper-gold mine, which the B.C. government has already approved, as early as this month.
“If it doesn’t go ahead, I hope people will be smart enough to not blame the first nations for it,” 100 Mile House Mayor Mitch Campsall said on Friday. Like many regional politicians, Mr. Campsall supports the project for the jobs and economic benefit it would bring to the area, which has been hammered by the pine beetle infestation and a downturn in ranching and agriculture.
If anyone gets blamed, Mr. Campsall said, “it should be the federal government.”
At Fish Lake a day earlier, Roger William said he was counting on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to reject the mine, which would involve destroying Fish Lake and replacing it with an artificial lake that would hold fewer fish.
“They’re asking us to allow a project that will drain a lake, destroy 1a lake,” said Mr. William, a one-time bull rider who has spent the last two decades pursuing a landmark aboriginal title case on behalf of the Tsilhqot-in Nation. “B.C. approved this mine without hearing what our people were going to say. We feel the B.C. process is just a rubber stamp.”
Prospectors have been kicking the rocks around Fish Lake since the 1930s. Vancouver-based Taseko Mines did extensive work on the site in the 1990s, but in the face of low commodity prices, shelved mine plans in 2000. The company dusted off the project in 2005 and has spent the years since developing mine plans and pursuing required approvals.
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