Taseko sees ‘positive future’ for New Prosperity mine after high court ruling – by Gordon Hoekstra (Vancouver Sun – July 6, 2014)


Tsilhqot’in Nation says company is in denial about central-B.C. project, mine is dead

A Supreme Court of Canada decision may have opened the door to a twice rejected gold and copper mine mired in a legal battle.

That’s because the $1.1-billion New Prosperity mine falls outside the 1,750 square kilometres of territory in central B.C. for which the Tsilhqot’in now has title and where consent is needed for industrial projects, says Taseko Mines Ltd.

The aboriginal title question always hung over the project, and now it’s settled, says the company. “It’s the only mine development deposit (in British Columbia) that people now know for sure is not in aboriginal title area,” says Brian Battison, vice-president of corporate affairs for Taseko.

The Tsilhqot’in continue to oppose the project, citing hunting and trapping rights, and admonish the company for continuing to push a project unwanted by First Nations. “I think Taseko has a very twisted view of things. I think it’s very, very irresponsible,” said chief Joe Alphonse, tribal chairman of the Tsilhqot’in.

The continuing dispute over New Prosperity shows how the complex nature of resource development in British Columbia — where aboriginal, industrial, government and local non-native interests often overlap — will continue to pose a challenge despite the landmark Supreme Court of Canada decision.

Released just over a week ago, the unanimous high court decision for the first time granted title to a specified area of land to a First Nation. The decision was lauded by First Nations as a game changer in relations with the federal and provincial governments, giving them more control over resource development on their traditional territories.

University of B.C. law professor Gordon Christie said it is no surprise that Taseko would welcome the high court decision.

That’s because while it’s true the Tsilhqot’in continue to have rights to hunt and fish, the requirement for the Crown to consult and accommodate over those rights is not as strong as for title or property rights, he said.

“The ability of the Crown to issue permits over lands that just have rights to hunt and fish, that power is enhanced quite a bit,” said Christie.

The Tsilhqot’in Nation have been in a long-running battle with Taseko over the New Prosperity mine.

The project was approved by the provincial government, but twice rejected by federal panels and the federal government.

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