Controversial Prosperity mine blocked by B.C. Supreme Court judge

Published in the Vancouver Observer news site  |  December 2, 2011  |  Circulation: 100,000 average monthly readers.

Today, a B.C. Supreme Court judge turned the tables on the mining company behind the controversial Prosperity mine in the province’s interior, blocking Taseko mining company’s project with a 90-day injunction.

The company had, in fact, applied for its own injunction against members of the Tsilhqot’in First Nation, who had blocked access roads to a site they say is sacred and environmentally sensitive – an application the judge overruled.

“Everybody’s elated,” the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs’ (UBCIC) grand chief, Stewart Phillip, told the Vancouver Observer. “It was a long week in court.
“I personally was in the court room all week long – I heard the arguments from both sides. Needless to say, we’re greatly relieved and very happy for the Tsilhqot’in people.”

The company’s proposal for a gold and copper mine near Williams Lake, B.C., was blocked by the federal government in a previous review, despite an effort to promote the mine by the B.C. government. Premier Christy Clark has been a prominent proponent of the Prosperity mine.

“There’s a slight delay that we have to endure before we get on with our work,” said Taseko lawyer Brian Battison following the ruling, adding that the company has attempted to consult with the band, which he said has been uncooperative. “Matters of reconciliation and consultation are complicated matters at times.

“If people aren’t talking, then resolution is much more difficult to find.”

A mine in a spiritual land
But Tsilhqot’in National Government chief Joe Alphonse said his band has not been consulted in a meaningful way, and that Taseko’s plans were laid before any serious communication with the band occurred.

“To have a mine there is not acceptable to us by any means,” Chief Alphonse said. “This area is a spiritual area, where our spiritual healers go for ceremonies.

“To us, it’s like a church or temple. We’re not going to the Vatican and saying we want the Vatican converted to a casino hall – well, that’s the equivalent. And (the mining company is) going to lose, and that’s going to be a tough pill for them to swallow. They’re going to continue to face resistance and continue to lose support.”

Despite the 90-day injunction, many believe the company will continue to push for the mine to go ahead. The community has vowed to fight the mine through courts and blockades.

“There’s every reason to expect this struggle will continue, until there’s a final resolution,” Grand Chief Phillip said. “This is an unprecedented situation – the proponent has been allowed a second kick at the can.

Celebrating victory

“We celebrate this victory alongside the Tsilhqot’in people, and shall continue to stand in complete and full solidarity with the Tsilhqot’in National Government.”

Despite the overturning of Taseko’s own injunction application against blockading band members, the judge ordered the band to pay for the company’s legal costs.

The B.C. government approved Taseko’s $1.1 billion mine proposal, but thefederal government overturned that in its own environmental review in 2010.

In November, the federal government agreed to a revised Taseko proposal – which Phillip said was even more environmentally destructive than the company’s original one. The company claimed its second proposal – dubbed Prosperity 2 – spent an additional $300 million to reduce the environmental impact of the project, and preserved a lake held particularly sacred to the Tsilhqot’in people.

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