VANCOUVER — A First Nations organization British Columbia says its members intend to peacefully take action to protect two lakes with cultural and spiritual significance from drilling by a mining company.
According to a release from the Tsilhqot’in Nation in Williams Lake, Taseko Mines sent a notice on June 27 indicating it would begin using heavy equipment such as logging and road-clearing equipment starting on Tuesday, July 2.
The company says the drilling and related activities are an attempt to prove the lakes will not be harmed by its so-called New Prosperity Project, a proposed open-pit copper and gold mine west of Williams Lake.
The mine was approved by B.C. in 2010 but rejected twice by the federal government on the grounds it would cause adverse environmental effects.
A decision by B.C.’s Supreme Court last August allowed Taseko to proceed with investigative work around the site of the proposed mine, and the court refused to hear the Tsilhqot’in Nation’s appeal of that decision last month.
Tsilhqot’in Nation leaders say Taseko Mines does not have the nation’s consent to undertake the investigative work and that B.C.’s approval of the drilling is a rejection of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
“This is not a green light to get this mine approved. The results of this (drilling) project are not going to overturn the two federal environmental appeal processes. This is a dead-end project and you’re going into an area that _ repeatedly we continue to point out _ is our sacred area,” Chief Joe Alphonse of the Tsilhqot’in National Government, which represents six Tsilhqot’in communities in the area, said in an interview Monday.
“I don’t know if the company’s even going to be there (Tuesday) but we’ll be there just in case. And if they do, we’re there to tell them that they don’t have access to go into that area,” he added.
A representative from Taseko Mines Ltd., headquartered in Vancouver, was not immediately available to comment.