VANCOUVER — A festering dispute between a First Nation and Vancouver-based mining company is expected to ramp up again this week, after Indigenous attempts to appeal an exploratory mining permit were struck down by the BC Supreme Court last month.
The Tsilhqot’in Nation says it will continue to protect what it considers a sacred lake from devastating environmental and cultural heritage impacts and is calling for a safe resolution to prevent Taseko Mines Ltd. (TML) from drilling in the area.
On June 13, the company gave a two-week notice that it plans to begin exploratory drilling by Tuesday in an area west of Williams Lake at Teztan Biny — or Fish Lake — after the Supreme Court refused an appeal of a B.C. court ruling which allowed Taseko to proceed.
The nation said on Monday it will assemble for peaceful action to prevent the drilling program.
Tsilhqot’in Tribal Chairman Chief Joe Alphonse told Star Vancouver they are choosing to stage the protest in a safe place Tuesday where they can “control the environment” because of worries about a possible escalation in the conflict if citizens are left to vent their frustration individually.
This will be the latest confrontation in a legal battle extending almost 25 years between the Tsilhqot’in Nation and Taseko.
Here’s what you need to know ahead of Tuesday.
Taseko has done exploration work in area for the last 20 years. In 2008, the company proposed the New Prosperity Mine — a $1.5 billion open-pit gold and copper mine roughly 125 kilometres north of Williams Lake in the heart of Tsilhquot’in territory. It would drain Fish Lake, turning it into a tailings pit.
The Tsilhqot’in Nation say the area is of immense spiritual, environmental and cultural significance, arguing Fish Lake is one of B.C.’s most productive wild trout lakes and the surrounding area is an active cultural school and sacred site.
The mine would be inside the nation’s traditional territory including 300,000 hectares of wilderness and wildlife habitat which is constitutionally protected, just outside of its title lands which stretch 1,900 square kilometres. It falls within the bounds the nation has constitutionally protected rights to hunt, fish and trap. MORE