Chief Joe Alphonse, Tsilhqot’in National Government tribal chair, left, speaks with Finn Conradsen, Taseko Mines Ltd. New Prosperity Mine project manager Tuesday morning at the junction of Highway 20 and Farwell Canyon Road, 57 kilometres west of Williams Lake. The Tsilhqot’in set up a peaceful protest camp at the site Monday evening and are denying Taseko contractors access to haul heavy equipment in for exploratory drilling at the proposed New Prosperity Mine site, 185 km southwest of Williams Lake. Monica Lamb-Yorski photo

Chief Joe Alphonse, Tsilhqot’in National Government tribal chair, left, speaks with Finn Conradsen, Taseko Mines Ltd. New Prosperity Mine project manager Tuesday morning at the junction of Highway 20 and Farwell Canyon Road, 57 kilometres west of Williams Lake. The Tsilhqot’in set up a peaceful protest camp at the site Monday evening and are denying Taseko contractors access to haul heavy equipment in for exploratory drilling at the proposed New Prosperity Mine site, 185 km southwest of Williams Lake. Monica Lamb-Yorski photo

B.C. First Nation stops Taseko Mines drilling

Tsilhqot’in Nation near Williams Lake opposes the New Prosperity gold and copper mine project

Update:

The Tsilhqot’in Nation has halted Taseko Mines Ltd. beginning exploratory drilling for its proposed New Prosperity Mine 185 kilometres southwest of Williams Lake.

Contractors for Taseko attempting to bring heavy equipment in Tuesday morning at around 6:30 a.m. were stopped by a peaceful protest at the junction of Highway 20 and the Farwell Canyon Road.

Leaders and community members from the six Tshilqot’in nations set up at the protest site Monday evening, 57 kilometres west of Williams Lake, where they have lit a small campfire on each side of the highway.

Finn Conradsen, manager of New Prosperity Field Program for TM, arrived at the site about 10:30 a.m Tuesday and spoke with Chief Joe Alphonse, Tsilhqot’in National Government tribal chair.

twitter.com

Their conversation, which started with a handshake, lasted about five minutes and was respectful on both sides.

“I just want to confirm with you that you will not allow us to bring equipment through,” Conradsen asked Alphonse.

Handing him some letters from the Tsilhqot’in Nation which he’d signed moments earlier, Alphonse said they would not be letting any Taseko contractors through.

“We want to protect our interests and everyone’s safety, which is why we have gone with a peaceful protest,” he added. “We did not want to put you in a stressful situation, we wanted to do this in a controlled environment, rather than out in the woods.”

Conradsen said the company appreciated the approach and thanked Alphonse for presenting him with the letters.

“Do you want to offer why you are opposed to the work that we are proposing?” Conradsen asked him.

“I think the biggest issue is the mine as a whole,” Alphonse responded. “We’ve been opposed to it as a nation and we went through the Canadian Environmental review process. It was rejected twice by the most industry-friendly government we’ve ever had.”

Alphonse said the drilling permit given to Taseko is provincial, but it’s the federal government that holds the key to the mine being developed.

“No matter what’s found there, it’s not going to overturn that federal process,” he said. “We feel the NDP has to do the honourable thing and pull the pin. If that means working out compensation with you guys they should be doing that.”

When Conradsen asked if there was anything further Taseko could do to resolve the conflict and allow the site drilling program to go ahead, Alphonse said that should have happened 25 years ago.

“The alternative to destroy our sacred area there is not an option,” he added. “We want to see big projects come through, but they have to be in areas where we are accepting of [them].”

He said they do not want an open pit mine in an area they consider sacred.

Conradsen thanked Alphonse and everyone at the protest for their respect, concern for safety and their time.

After Conradsen and a representative from Lake City Excavating left, Tl’etinqox Councillor Cecil Grinder led a cleansing ceremony at the site.

Yunesit’in (Stone) Chief Russell Myers Ross, who is also tribal chair of the TNG, said he felt conflicted, having to protest.

“When you go from Canada Day being yesterday, you have to think deeply about whether you feel you belong within the Canadian culture,” he said. “We’ve always been a Nation distinct from Canada and you hope that Canada would recognize our laws and authority. We’ve never ceded it.”

Myers Ross said to date, the Tsilhqot’in have made most of their opposition to the mine in the most civil routes as possible.

“We have been respectful in saying ‘no,’ and requesting the company to leave. We’ve been bringing these issues to the court through the appeal and failing to get our leave through the Supreme Court of Canada has been disappointing.”

Alphonse said he hopes the standoff will force the provincial government to act.

“It will put more pressure on the NDP to finally deal with this. They wanted to be government, they should act like it,” he said. “As long as the NDP continues to try and shred its responsibilities, the situation will keep escalating. They got to deal with it.”

In July 2017, Taseko received the permit for the drilling in the Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) area and immediately the Tsilhqot’in expressed outrage.

The exploratory drilling project proposed a 50-person camp, 321 trench/test pits, 110 geotechnical drill holes, 53 kilometres of new exploration trails and 66 km of access modification.

When contacted by the Tribune, Brian Battison, Taseko’s vice-president of corporate affairs said he was not able to comment at this time as to what the company’s next steps might be.

Read more: Tsilhqot’in communities shocked by drilling permit approval

www.facebook.com

Original story:

The Tsilhqot’in Nation says its members will organize a peaceful protest of exploratory drilling by Taseko Mines west of Williams Lake.

The nation said it will exercise its Aboriginal rights and ancestral laws to protect Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) and Yanah Biny (Little Fish Lake) – places of cultural and spiritual significance for the Tsilhqot’in people – in face of the Vancouver-based company’s New Prosperity gold and copper mine proposal.

Taseko wrote to the Tsilhqot’in Nation last week, advising it would mobilize heavy equipment, including logging and road-clearing equipment, starting on Tuesday, to be followed by the ground disturbance work.

“This project is dead,” said Tsilhqot’in National Government Tribal Chairman and Tl’etinqox Chief Joe Alphonse. “It cannot be built. Yet the company wants to come in and tear up a place that is as sacred to us as a church. We are deeply concerned about this escalating conflict.”

READ MORE: TNG appeal against Taseko’s exploratory drilling permit dismissed by top court

The B.C. government granted the exploratory drilling permit in 2017, allowing Taseko to build a 50-person camp, 321 trenches or test pits, 110 geotechnical drill holes, and 53 kilometres of new exploration trail.

This was despite the federal government refusing to approve it following its environmental assessment in 2014. Taseko has asked the Federal Court to review the decision.


Do you have a comment about this story? email:
editor@wltribune.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Residents of the Cowichan Valley decorated more than 55 vehicles with anti-racist slogans for a car rally in support of Cowichan Tribes on Saturday, January 24. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Dozens join anti-racism car rally and virtual panel in Cowichan Valley

Provincial ministry and BC Green caucus issue joint statement detailing concerns

Island Health is expected to begin public consultations soon on its controversial plans to open a new wellness and recovery centre at 5878 York Road. (File photo)
Public consultations on Duncan wellness and recovery centre coming in February

Controversial facility on York Road scheduled to open in June

Jerry Dyck plans to purchase a new RV to drive across Canada in, once it’s safe to travel again. (Courtesy BCLC)
Victoria man plans post-pandemic cross-Canada RV trip after $2M lottery win

Retired electrician bought the winning ticket in Duncan

Providence Health Care has teamed up with partners, including Island Health, to launch the first remote cochlear implant (CI) mapping program for adults in British Columbia. Duncan’s Alan Holt was one of the first to test it out. (Submitted)
Remote cochlear clinic offers shorter commute for patients like Duncan’s Alan Holt

Duncan man one of the first to test virtual mapping program

Larry Fiege, right, from Fiege’s Farm shows a rapt audience the old-fashioned way to tap a Bigleaf Maple during the Maple Syrup Festival at the BC Forest Discovery Centre Feb. 1 and 2, 2020. (Andrea Rondeau/Citizen)
Maple Syrup Festival in Duncan cancelled

The annual syrup festival is a popular event at the BC Forest Discovery Centre

Crews with Discovery Channel film as an Aggressive Towing driver moves a Grumman S2F Tracker aircraft around a 90-degree turn from its compound and onto the road on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. It was the “most difficult” part of the move for the airplane, one organizer said. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Vintage military plane gets towed from Chilliwack to Greater Victoria

Grumman CP-121 Tracker’s eventual home the British Columbia Aviation Museum on Vancouver Island

Jesse Savidant, 31, is wanted by the RCMP after failing to appear in provincial court in Nanaimo in December. Police warn Savidant should be considered violent. (Photo Submitted)
Warrant out for man accused of stolen property offences across Vancouver Island

Jesse Savidant did not appear for court date in Nanaimo last month, say RCMP

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Rolling seven-day average of cases by B.C. health authority to Jan. 21. Fraser Health in purple, Vancouver Coastal red, Interior Health orange, Northern Health green and Vancouver Island blue. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
2nd COVID vaccine doses on hold as B.C. delivery delayed again

New COVID-19 cases slowing in Fraser Health region

The Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is urging visitors to stay on designated trails after a hiker became injured in an unsanctioned area last week. (Westerly file photo)
Injured hiker rescued in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

“Safety is everyone’s responsibility.”

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. Two more cases of the COVID-19 strain first identified in South Africa have been diagnosed in British Columbia, bringing the total to three as of Jan. 16.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. now has three cases of South African COVID-19 variant, six of U.K. strain

Both variants are thought to spread faster than earlier strains

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker in an undated photo from social media. The couple has been ticketed and charged under the Yukon’s <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
Great Canadian Gaming CEO resigns after being accused of sneaking into Yukon for vaccine

Rod Baker and Ekaterina Baker were charged with two CEMA violations each

Police discovered a makeshift nightclub in a Vancouver apartment on Jan. 23, 2021, and say it wasn’t the first time this month officers have been called to the unit over social gathering concerns. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
Doorman of makeshift ‘booze-can’ in Vancouver apartment fined; police look to court order

This marks the fourth complaint about social gatherings inside the apartment in January

Local musician and artist Daisy Melville created a watercolour portrait of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders from the recent American inauguration, and with help from her mom, is now selling t-shirts and more with funds going to the Comox Valley Food Bank. Image submitted
Island artist turns Sanders inauguration meme into art for good

All proceeds from the sale of shirts, sweaters and more will go to the Comox Valley Food Bank

Most Read