Taseko Mines' PR campaign will not save Teztan Biny

Date of publication: 
19 April 2012

Taseko Mines’ PR campaign will not save Teztan Biny

The Tsilhqot’in Nation has rejected claims by Taseko Mines Ltd. that the company’s New Prosperity Project will “save” Teztan Biny (Fish Lake).

MiningWatch Canada release

16 April 2012

WILLIAMS LAKE, BC – The Tsilhqot’in Nation has rejected claims by Taseko Mines Ltd. (TML) that TML’s New Prosperity Project will “save” Teztan Biny (Fish Lake). The Tsilhqot’in Nation has no doubt that this “new” mining plan merely puts the lake on temporary life support and would result in the same devastating cultural and environmental impacts that prompted the Federal Government to reject the original Prosperity Mine proposal in 2010.

“Surrounding a sacred lake with a massive open pit, one of Canada’s largest tailings dams, and a giant waste rock pile, and then putting it at risk of contamination from toxic tailings discharge is not our definition of saving anything,” says Tsilhqot’in National Government Tribal Chair Chief Joe Alphonse. “We saw in the last environmental assessment how far the company’s predictions were from reality. The company said there would be no significant impacts. But an independent federal panel described a whole range of massive cultural and environmental impacts. This company has no credibility with us.”

Xeni Gwet’in Chief Marilyn Baptiste said: “This version of the mine has already been deemed a greater environmental risk by the independent panel in 2010, and by the company’s own statements in the last review”.

Chief Baptise also noted that the extra $300 million the company is allocating to the project is $37 million less than it previously stated would be needed for this alternative mine plan. “New” Prosperity also does not appear to involve new mitigation measures beyond those considered in the 2010 review, when the federal panel rejected this alternative design for the mine because of “greater environmental risk” and the likely contamination of Teztan Biny in any event.

The Tsilhqot’in Nation remains concerned that the proposal threatens the Fraser River’s last strong and consistent salmon run and puts Lower Taseko Lake at risk of direct discharge of tailings into its tributaries.

The “new” proposal would still destroy 81% of Teztan Biny’s fish spawning grounds, and according to the company’s own statements would put the lake at risk of contamination over time. Yanah Biny (Little Fish Lake), where Tsilhqot’in homes and graves are located, would still be completely destroyed under hundreds of millions of tonnes of acid waste.

Chief Alphonse said: “To approve this mine would make a mockery of the environmental assessment process. This proposal cannot and will not be approved. Once again, we find ourselves defending our statements – we are against this proposed mine. It will be devastating to the environment and our culture.”

Attachment: Ten facts that show why Prosperity Mine proposal cannot be approved
Ten facts that show why resubmitted Prosperity Mine proposal cannot be approved

The CEAA review panel process was very different from the BC EAO rubber-stamp decision. Its report found immitigable, devastating impacts to the local fish stocks and endangered grizzly populations, and to the existing and future rights of the Tsilhqot’in and its youth. Then Environment Minister Jim Prentice described the report’s findings as “scathing” and “probably the most condemning I have ever read.”

The company knows its new option is worse than its first plan. TML’s V.P. Corporate Affairs, Brian Battison, was clear in his Mar. 22, 2010, opening presentation to the CEAA hearings, when he stated: “Developing Prosperity means draining Fish Lake. We wish it were otherwise. We searched hard for a different way. A way to retain the lake and have the mine. But there is no viable alternative. The lake and the deposit sit side by side. It is not possible to have one without the loss of the other.”

The point was emphasised by TML’s VP of engineering, Scott Jones, who stated: “What happens to the water quality in Fish Lake, if you try and preserve that body of water with the tailings facility right up against it, is that over time the water quality in Fish Lake will become equivalent to the water quality in the pore water of the tailings facility, particularly when it’s close.”

This proposal does not address the issues that led to the rejection of the first bid last year. Fish Lake will be affected by the toxic waste and eventually die, and it will be surrounded by a massive open pit mine and related infrastructure for decades. The Tsilhqot’in people will not have access to their spiritual place, and the area will never be returned to the current pristine state.

It is not even new. It is “Mine Development Plan 2.” TML states on page 20 of its project submission: “Option 2 is the basis for the New Prosperity design …The concepts that lead to the configuration of MDP Option 2 have been utilized to develop the project description currently being proposed.”

This option was looked at and rejected last year by the company, Environment Canada and the CEAA review panel. For example, page 65 of the review report states: “The Panel agrees with the observations made by Taseko and Environment Canada that Mine Development Plans 1 and 2 would result in greater long-term environmental risk than the preferred alternative.”

The new $300 million in proposed spending is to cover the costs of relocating mine waste a little further away. There is nothing in the ‘new’ plan to mitigate all the environmental impacts identified in the previous assessment. TML states in its economic statement: “The new development design, predicated on higher long term prices for both copper and gold, would result in a direct increase in capital costs of $200 million to purchase additional mining equipment to relocate the tailings dam and to move the mine waste around Fish Lake to new locations. This redesign also adds $100 million in direct extra operating costs over the 20-year mine life to accomplish that task.” In fact, this new spending is actually $37 million less than the company said last year it would have to spend just to go with the option that it and the review panel agreed would be worse for the environment.

The federal government is required under the Constitution to protect First Nations, which have been found to be under serious threat in this case, and is internationally committed to do so under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. These duties are every bit as clear regarding this resubmitted proposal.

Approving this mine would show the Environmental Assessment process is meaningless, and would demonstrate that governments are ignoring their obligations – as the Assembly of First Nations national chiefs-in-assembly made this crystal clear this summer in their resolution of support for the Tsilhqot’in.

The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans has opposed this project since it was first raised in 1995. It soundly rejected it again last year. It has no reason to support it now. Nor does Environment Canada, which, as the CEAA report noted last year, also found option 2 to be worse than the original bid.

There are many other more worthy projects to be pursued – the vast majority of which, if not all will require working with aboriginal communities. Natural Resources Canada estimates there is $350 billion-$500 billion worth of such potential projects in Canada. Governments, industry and investors do not need to go backwards by pushing this confrontational proposal and rebuffing efforts by First Nations to find a way to create a better mining system that would benefit everyone in the long run.

For further information:

Chief Marilyn Baptiste: 250-267-1401
Chief Joe Alphonse: 250-305-8282


Taseko Mines Ltd. slammed for offensive attack on Aboriginal participation in Prosperity Mine review


1 May 2012

TSILHQOT’IN TERRITORY, BC – A deeply offensive letter from Taseko Mines Ltd (TML) to the Harper government, urging Environment Minister Kent to impose new limits on First Nations participation and remove key Aboriginal concerns from the review of its rebid Prosperity Mine proposal, raises fears that the company’s lobbying could reduce the federal review to a version of British Columbia’s weak “rubberstamp” process that approved TML’s first, discredited bid.

In a recently obtained Nov. 23, 2011 letter to Minister Kent, TML President and CEO Russell Hallbauer urges Minister Kent to:

Prohibit Aboriginal prayers or ceremonies at the start of Panel hearings – even though this is a matter of basic respect by governments and tribunals when engaging with First Nations;
Impose new limits on our communities’ ability to expressing their views, including those of our youth, whose future is at stake, and by banning videos and other commentaries; and
Prevent the Panel from considering the spiritual importance of the area to the Tsilhqot’in people, even though this is central to our culture.

The profound spiritual importance of this area to the Tsilhqot’in people was a significant factor in the decision of the federal panel that reviewed the original Prosperity Mine proposal. That proposal was soundly rejected by the Federal Government in November 2010, in part based on permanent, high magnitude impacts on Tsilhqot’in culture and cultural heritage.

“This is a black eye to the mining industry and we hope it is not one it would endorse, but we are not surprised that Mr. Hallbauer would write such an offensive letter,” said Chief Alphonse. “We have warned over and over again that this company does not understand or respect First Nations or our issues. This letter proves, once again, that this is the wrong project, in the wrong place, by the wrong company.”

Mr. Hallbauer’s letter underscores concerns raised earlier by TML’s campaign to prevent the new Panel from deciding the significance of impacts on Aboriginal rights. The previous Panel concluded that the original Project would have significant impacts on Tsilhqot’in Aboriginal rights.

First Nations are alarmed that the draft Terms of Reference for the new Panel, which are expected to be finalized any day, would drastically reduce or even remove the new Panel’s mandate to consider impacts on Aboriginal rights.

Chief Alphonse added: “What concerns us is this letter is part of a major lobbying campaign by TML, which had three lobbyists registered in Ottawa on this file. The failure of CEAA or the government to assure us the rules of the game are not going to be changed for this second review – which should never have been granted in the first place – obviously makes us wonder if we should be worried that the fix is in.”

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, stated “First Nations were deeply alarmed by the Harper Government’s recent announcement to eviscerate the federal Environmental Assessment process as part of their Responsible Resource Development Plan. If the draft Terms of Reference for the new Panel, which are expected to be finalized any day, drastically reduce or even remove the new Panel’s mandate to consider impacts on Aboriginal rights, it will result in greater uncertainty and intensified conflict on the land.”

Chief Baptiste said: “Mr. Harper’s government lived up to its responsibility to the environment and its constitutional duty to protect First Nations rights by rejecting the first bid in 2010 and it surely has no choice but to do so again. However, it did take the unprecedented step of allowing this second kick at the can for TML, even though the new option was described by the first review panel, TML itself, and Environment Canada as posing even greater environmental risk than the original plan.

“Add to this the fact that the government is pushing through sweeping changes to the EA process in general, to the Fisheries Act, and now we have this letter from TML, and yes, we are concerned,” said Chief Baptiste, “But this letter shows what we are up against. We will not be silenced and we will not back down. This government endorsed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and we know that all of Canada is watching what happens here”.

Link to Letter from Taseko Mines Ltd. to Minister Peter Kent:

For further information:

Media contacts:
Chief Joe Alphonse – 250-305-8282 or 250-394-4212
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip – 250-490-5314
Chief Marilyn Baptiste – 250-267-1401 (after 12 noon, Pacific)


No amount of money could replace loss


1 May 2012


When it comes to life – all life – it is water and land that sustain all, no matter who you are.

This is central to the Tsilhqot’in people’s position that there can be no give and take when it comes to protecting Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) and the surrounding ecosystem (Yanah Biny [Little Fish Lake] and Nabas) from an utterly destructive revised mine proposal – a bid that is in fact based on Option 2 in the original Prosperity Mine bid, which the former 2010 CEAA review panel, Taseko Mines Limited and Environment Canada all agreed had greater environmental risk than the plan that was ultimately rejected.

While this proposal might be all about money for Taseko Mines Limited, for us it is about life and future generations. No amount of money could replace what would be lost.

Of course, the issue of rights is also crucial to us.

The same CEAA panel in 2010 reported that our current and future rights would be irreparably harmed, and noted that the incredible cultural importance of this area would be lost for the Tsilhqot’in whether or not Teztan Biny is somehow kept on life support in the middle of a massive open-pit mining operation.

In 2010 the federal government did the only thing it could honourably do under its responsibility to the environment and its constitutional duty to protect First Nations rights, and rejected this proposed mine. With continuing immitigable impacts to the environment, fish and grizzly habitat and aboriginal use now and in the future, it must do so again.

This project is not the only option for Williams Lake or the Tsilhqot’in. As Williams Lake’s mayor said during the recent municipal election, there are many other projects and options for the city and region, and indeed the Tsilhqot’in Nation continues to work towards other economic opportunities.

It might be easy for some to say that the Tsilhqot’in should step aside, but one wonders if they would do so if this project were to be built in Williams Lake and threatened their water and land, instead of out of the town’s sight, 125 kilometres away.

Chief Marilyn Baptiste
Xeni Gwet’in First Nations Government

The First Nations Leadership Council has issued the following open letter:

Honourable Joe Oliver
Ministry of Natural Resources Canada
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON, K1A 0A6
Sent via facsimile: 613-943-1562

OPEN LETTER: Federal Announcement of the Responsible Resource Development Plan (April 17th, 2012)

Dear Minister Oliver:

We are writing with respect to your government’s shocking announcement to completely gut the environmental assessment process. We are gravely concerned with this announcement to eviscerate the process for environmental review on resource development projects after the changes lay waste to the credibility of the process. These environmental laws and the associated processes do not replace the judicially-recognized and constitutionally-protected Aboriginal Title, Rights and Treaty Rights but there are vital parts of the Crown’s relationship with First Nations. Fundamental changes to the environmental assessment process and other environmental protection laws can only be undertaken with meaningful consultation with First Nations. We urge the federal governmental to work with First Nations to improve environmental protections rather then weaken them with the reduction of assessment timelines and the reduction of required organizations responsible for such reviews.

First Nations have legal and constitutionally protected rights and responsibilities to protect their traditional territories and all that this encompasses, and are not merely stakeholders in resource development projects. Both domestic and international law recognize the importance of Indigenous Peoples’ relationship to resources and all activities that take place on our traditional territories. A recent report by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination emphasized the need for Canada to include Indigenous peoples in decision making, recommending that Canada “Implement in good faith the right to consultation and to free, prior and informed consent of Aboriginal peoples whenever their rights may be affected by projects carried out on their lands, as set forth in international standards and the State party’s legislation.” Further, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples sets out in Article 26(1) that “Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied, or otherwise used or acquired.” We fully expect Canada to uphold its commitment to this important international doctrine.

We remind you that the Crown cannot legislate itself out of its duties to consult and accommodate First Nations. With upcoming projects that require further review such as Taseko Mines Ltd’s Prosperity Mine, expansion of the Kinder-Morgan pipeline, Enbridge Northern Gateway Project as well as other resource development projects, the Federal government must engage in good faith and meaningfully consult with First Nations. Removing or weakening environmental reviews for projects will only result in greater uncertainty and heightened conflict on the land.

We are keenly aware that the British Columbia government is simultaneously working to create regulations to exempt some so-called “low-risk activities” from the requirement to hold a Mines Act permit. The regulatory changes to the Mines Act were set out in Bill 19, which was introduced on November 14th and rushed through the House to receive Royal Assent on November 24th, the last day that the Legislative Assembly sat in 2011. We wish to put you on notice that we are monitoring the dovetailing approaches taken by both the provincial and federal governments to categorically erode the approval process for environmental projects in favour of industry and in complete disrespect for Aboriginal Title and Rights and Treaty Rights.

Again, we are deeply disturbed by these developments and we urgently request a meeting with the First Nations Leadership Council to further discuss how these proposed changes to the environmental assessment process and other environmental protection laws will impact on the Aboriginal Title, Rights and Treaty Rights of First Nations in BC.


On behalf of the FIRST NATIONS SUMMIT:

Grand Chief Edward John
Chief Douglas White III Kwulasultun
Dan Smith


Grand Chief Stewart Phillip
Chief Bob Chamberlin
Chief Marilyn Baptiste


Regional Chief Jody Wilson-Raybould

CC: BC First Nations