Sacred Land News
To the disappointment and frustration of the Tsilhqot’in Nation, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency announced on Nov. 7 that it would accept a repackaged proposal for the previously rejected Prosperity Gold-Copper Mine, which threatens the Tsilhqot’in sacred lake Teztan Biny in British Columbia.
The proposed mine site — which encompasses Teztan Biny (Fish Lake), Yanah Biny (Little Fish Lake) and the surrounding area, called Nabas — is traditional Tsilhqot’in territory where the people have hunted, trapped, fished, collected medicinal plants, and shared their knowledge and history from generation to generation through cultural gatherings and ceremonies.
The lakes are home to a genetically unique type of rainbow trout. They are also in the headwaters of the last major viable salmon run that comes up the Fraser River, and water in the area is pure enough that the people are able to drink directly the source — a testament to the protection the Tsilhqot’in have provided their traditional lands for generations. The area also provides important habitat for the threatened South Chilcotin grizzly bear.
For some 20 years, the Tsilhqot’in Nation has been fighting Taseko Mines Ltd.’s proposed open-pit mining project, which the Canadian environment minister rejected last year largely because the plan called for draining Teztan Biny and using it as a toxic tailings dump.
The government environmental report on which the decision was based concluded that “the project would result in significant adverse environmental effects on fish and fish habitat, on navigation, on the current use of lands and resources for traditional purposes by First Nations and on cultural heritage, and on certain potential or established Aboriginal rights [to hunt, trap and fish].” It particularly noted that the island in the middle of Teztan Biny, which would have been destroyed, is “a place of spiritual power and healing for the Tsilhqot’in.”
Three months after the government’s refusal, Taseko Mines submitted a revised plan, which proposes instead to build the tailings facility a little over a mile upstream from Teztan Biny. While the new proposal “saves” Teztan Biny, it would still surround the lake with a massive open-pit mine, destroy Yanah Biny and the Nabas region, endanger the trout spawning grounds, and threaten Tsilhqot’in member homes and graves.
Regardless of the proposed plan, according to a Tsilhqot’in media backgrounder, “the fact remains that the ore body lies immediately beside and under Teztan Biny and that the ore body is a toxic cocktail waiting to contaminate the region’s water.”
The Tsilhqot’in National Government called the new proposal a “repackaged version” of a past option that was already determined to be inferior to the most recently rejected plan, and members are frustrated that they must now endure another lengthy and costly review process.
Meanwhile, the mining company, to the dismay of First Nations members and conservationists, has already received exploration permits to begin building 15 miles of roads and dig dozens of test pits and drill holes in the proposed project area.
“The cumulative impacts from the proposed road building and drilling in this area of proven cultural and spiritual importance is a serious threat to our Aboriginal rights,” Chief Marilyn Baptiste of the Xeni Gwet’in First Nation said in a press release. “Any further destruction would be pointless as the federal government cannot possibly approve this proposal.”
What you can do
Please contact Elaine Feldman, Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency president, to voice your opposition to Taseko Mines’ revised proposal:
Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency
Place Bell Canada 160 Elgin Street, 22nd Floor
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0H3 Canada
If you send a letter via email, please CC the following people:
Peter Kent, Federal Minister of Environment (email@example.com)
Premier Christy Clark, Province of British Columbia (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Tsilhqot’in Chiefs (email@example.com)
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