By Jorge Barrera
APTN National News
OTTAWA–The Stephen Harper cabinet has no “grounds” to approve the proposed Prosperity gold and copper mine in British Columbia that would lead to the draining of a lake sacred to area First Nations which have vowed to stop the project at all costs, says the Liberal Party’s environmental critic.
The Taseko Mines Inc. project is out of step with the times on both the environment and First Nations rights front, said Parkdale-High Park MP Gerard Kennedy.
The Harper cabinet is expected to decide the fate of the mine sometime this month or early October. A federal panel found that the mine would have a devastating impact on the environment and on First Nations communities that have used the area since time immemorial.
“There doesn’t seem to be any grounds the federal cabinet could use except simply saying that when it comes to the environment and the economy, the economy wins every time,” said Kennedy. “That is the wrong message to send to Canadians and industry…industry is very capable of coming up with sustainable proposals and we have to tilt things in the direction.
Kennedy said the environment impact of the mine, which would drain Fish Lake and turn Little Fish Lake and part of a Fish Creek into a tailings pond for the mine’s waste, far outweighs any economic benefit the project may bring to the Williams Lake, B.C., which has seen its lumber industry devastated by pine beetle infestations.
“You have to have some principals…When the environment has no choice but to lose out and you can’t offset it or mitigate it in some way, then the environment has to win. That is the bottom line here,” said the Toronto-area MP.
Kennedy also criticized Taseko Mines for pushing ahead with the project with so much opposition from area First Nations in a territory that is under claim.
“You have an area of claim by First Nations where there is no treaty and that alone should cause things to come to a grinding halt,” he said. “There has to be respect for Aboriginal rights and the company should know that.”
After extensive study and hearings, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency panel concluded that Taseko Mines’ Prosperity project would have a devastating impact on First Nations, fish and wildlife in the area.
The Tsilhqot’in nation leadership has vowed to stop the project at all costs, including laying down their lives to prevent the destruction of the ecosystem which they say has sustained their people for centuries.
The B.C. government approved the mine earlier this year on the basis that the environmental impact of the 35-square kilometre mine would be offset by the estimated $5 billion of economic activity produce $600 million worth of revenue for governments it would generate.
“If we can (drain a lake here) we can do it anywhere,” said Kennedy. “We are saying a lake can be bought. Years ago that was the case, but that is not the case today.”
The mine site is about 495 kilometres northeast of Vancouver.