VANCOUVER – The Tsilhqot’in National Government and Taseko Mines Ltd. are scheduled to face off in a Victoria court Monday, marking the latest stage in a long-running battle over a proposed open-pit mine the company wants to build near Fish Lake, also known as Teztan Biny.
The Tsilhqot’in National Government (TNG) will ask the B.C. Supreme Court for an injunction to stop exploration work Taseko wants to do at the site, about 125 kilometres southwest of Williams Lake, B.C. The site lies just outside an area to which the TNG have aboriginal title – as confirmed in a landmark 2014 decision by the Supreme Court of Canada – and within a broader area subject to aboriginal claim.
The standoff between TNG and Taseko sets up a conflict between the provincial and federal governments and a potential headache for the B.C.’s NDP-Green alliance. A permit for exploration work, including drilling test pits and buildings roads, was issued July 14, while B.C.’s former Liberal government was still in office and several Tsilhqot’in communities were under evacuation orders because of raging wildfires.
That timing angered TNG leaders and bolstered their determination to try to stop the work from going ahead. “Why would you allow any more drilling on a project that’s been turned down – twice?” TNG vice-chair Roger William said on Sunday. The company, however, maintains the province was within its rights to issue the permit.
“This is fundamentally a jurisdictional dispute between the provincial and federal governments,” Taseko president Russ Hallbauer said on Saturday.