Ottawa must reject Prosperity Mine proposal – by Joe Alphonse (Victoria Times Colonist – December 17, 2013)

Chief Joe Alphonse is tribal chairman of the Tsilhqot’in Nation.

In 2010, Bill Bennett was B.C.’s mines minister and was ignoring all information regarding Taseko Mines Ltd.’s Prosperity Mine proposal for Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) — except for the claims made by the company itself.

The area that TML wanted to turn into one of the world’s biggest open-pit, low-grade gold and copper mines was featured in B.C.’s own tourism pamphlets, yet Bennett dismissed it as a “muddy little pothole of a lake.”

He and the company kept insisting the mine would be approved by Ottawa, and TML’s investors sent the company’s share price soaring to over $7 based on these assurances.

Even the pro-mining federal government of the day found the federal panel report so “scathing” in terms of environmental impacts and infringements on aboriginal rights that it had no choice but to reject it.

Fast-forward three years. Bennett is again telling reporters he is hopeful the mine will be approved, criticizing the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency panel report, agreeing that it would find significant adverse effects from a large-scale open-pit mine, but adding: “I think the impacts can be mitigated.”

Last week, Bennett went to Ottawa to meet with his federal minister friends to twist their arms to approve the mine.

Once again, Bennett seems to think his opinion, and TML’s, are more valid than the findings of a panel of independent experts based on a “totality of the evidence” from both federal and experts from several B.C. ministries. Once again, it would appear he has not read the CEAA review panel report, or he does not care what it says.

The latest twist is that now that the report is out on the new proposal — which is based on an option even TML dismissed in 2010 — the company has suddenly “discovered” that one of the many concerns raised about the project, this one by Natural Resources Canada regarding seepage, was allegedly based on the wrong model.

How can this be? The panel and various government departments, including Natural Resources Canada, repeatedly sent TML’s environmental impact statements back for more information and clarification. In the end, the company refused to provide the information and insisted the hearings proceed.

The purpose of those hearings was to investigate all these issues, and TML had opportunity to correct any problems, and even to submit supplementary closing arguments after the hearing concluded, which it never did. It never questioned the legitimacy of the NRC model.

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