APTN National News
VANCOUVER–The Harper government has again rejected a proposed open-pit gold and copper mine in British Columbia that threatened to destroy a lake sacred to the Tsilhqot’in nation.
Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq issued the rejection statement Wednesday. Aglukkaq said in the statement that the Harper cabinet decided the environmental impact of the $1.5 billion mine outweighed its potential economic benefit.
Mining firm Taseko Mines Ltd. has been pushing the mining project for almost two decades.
Former environment minister Jim Prentice rejected the proposed mine in 2010. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans also rejected the proposal in 1995 when the Chretien Liberals were in power.
“We commend the federal government for not bowing to industry lobbying and instead respecting the science and the independent process which came to the conclusion that this project would have a devastating impacts on the environment,” said Tsilhqot’in Nation Tribal Chair Joe Alphonse.
Xeni Gwet’in Chief Roger William said it was time for Taseko to stop pushing for the mine.
“The company has wasted too many resources and time on a project that was first rejected in 1995,” said William. “It is time to look elsewhere and leave us in peace.”
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo called the decision a “symbolic of a path forward right across this country.” Atleo said it was a victory for all First Nations across the country.
“Strong First Nations make for a stronger Canada,” said Atleo.
Taseko, however, has gone to Federal Court seeking a judicial review to strike parts of an independent environmental review panel report which found the mine would “have a significant adverse affect on fish and fish habitat in Fish Lake” which is sacred to the Tsilhqot’in.
The proposed 27 square-kilometre mine would have been constructed in the Fish Creek watershed which includes Fish Lake and Little Fish Lake. The watershed drains into the Taseko River.
The company’s updated proposal for the mine would have destroyed Little Fish Lake and gradually suffocate Fish Lake, which would have seen reduction in water flow from its tributaries.
The proposed mine site sits about 125 kilometres southwest of Williams Lake, B.C.