Misinformation tainted hearings, sowed mistrust
Russ Hallbauer is president and CEO of Taseko Mines Ltd.
The final weeks of the First Nations community hearing sessions of the federal environmental assessment for New Prosperity Gold-Copper Mine witnessed emotional testimony from many Tsilhqot’in and Shuswap First Nations peoples.
The New Prosperity project is located in British Columbia’s Cariboo-Chilcotin region. It proposes to save the culturally sensitive Fish Lake, and it will have a significant positive socio-economic impact on the region, British Columbia and Canada.
The Tsilhqot’in people have a long history and traditional connection to the land throughout their traditional territory, including in the proposed mining area around Fish Lake.
These communities, many with strong family ties, are working to heal some pressing social issues by strengthening awareness of their heritage and traditional practices among their youth as well as more broadly in the general population.
We applaud their efforts and understand and respect the importance of those traditions. In many respects the panel hearing has been a helpful process in providing much needed dialogue and greater mutual understanding of our respective interests and opportunities. Some of the panel testimony, however, much of it from outside special interests, has unfortunately been designed to misinform and divide.
The local communities have been told that the proposed mine will cause massive environmental damage; salmon in the rivers will die, the grizzly bears will be made extinct, and that the traditional lands that the people depend on for their way of life will be destroyed. They’ve heard that if the mine goes ahead there will no longer be any place in the vast region to practice the traditions and rituals that are so important to their culture and their spirituality and to their heritage. They’ve been told the rivers will be poisoned, the fish, animals, vegetables will all die or won’t be fit to use.
All of this unfortunate misinformation leads to confusion, it leads to mistrust, and it leads to fear. Sadly, that too has been a reality of the panel hearings. If I were to base my understanding of New Prosperity solely on some of this misinformed testimony by special interests, I too would oppose the mine.
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