“The only thing I can see is they are buying time. They’re putting the project on life support,” said Chief Joe Alphonse of the Tletinqox-t’in and the tribal chairman of the Tsilhqot’in National Government, over the phone from his office in northern B.C.
On life support is Taseko Mines’ latest effort to open a gold-copper mine in B.C.’s northern interior, in the heart of Tsilhqot’in & Secwepemc Nations’ traditional territory. The Vancouver-based company has been attempting to get the mine up and running for over five years now, and has faced strong opposition along the way.
The project has been rejected by the federal government twice, both times after negative findings from a federal environmental assessment panel. The latest rejection, this past October, found that the mine’s adverse effects greatly outweighed any economic benefits.
These negatives include impacts on the water quality in the area, including Fish Lake (known by the Tsilhqot’in as Teztan Biny), on fish populations and ecosystems, and on the traditional and cultural use of the land by First Nations people. There would also be significant impacts on the South Chilcotin grizzly bear population.
But the company isn’t done yet and has filed two judicial reviews, both asking the Federal Court of Canada to throw out the latest decision. While the first request hinges on a dispute about the science behind the panel’s finding, a review filed in late March is challenging the fairness of the review process itself, and could impact how the federal government consults with First Nations and what projects would be subject to future federal environmental assessments.