Tsilhqotin-First-Nation-Garth-Lenz.jpg

Outgoing B.C. Liberals Issue Mining Permits in Tsilhqot’in Territory During Wildfire Evacuation

The Tsilhqot’in First Nation — currently under an evacuation order due to B.C.’s wildfires — learned Monday that permits have been issued for mining company Taseko to conduct exploration for the New Prosperity mine, an open pit gold and copper mine twice rejected at the federal level.

Monday was the outgoing B.C. Liberal government’s final day in power.

Copies of the documentation obtained by DeSmog Canada show the permit was granted to Taseko on Friday July 14th, as members of the Tsilhqot’in were under evacuation orders due to rampant wildfires in central B.C.

“I appreciate this may come at a difficult time for you given the wildfire situation affecting some of your communities, however I made the permit decision Friday, ” Rick Adams, senior inspector with the B.C. Ministry of Energy and Mines, told Tsilhqot’in representatives in an e-mail.

“It’s crazy to see that on their last day, they tell us of this decision,” Chief Roger William of the Gwet’in First Nation, one of six member tribes of the Tsilhqot’in, told DeSmog Canada.

“We’re certainly outraged about it,” he said. “Our people, they found out as we’re dealing with fire and now we’re dealing with a three-year drilling program.”

The permits grant Taseko permission to create 76 kilometres of new or modified trails, 122 exploratory drill holes, 367 excavated test pits and 20 kilometres of seismic lines near Fish Lake, also known as Teztan Biny, an area of cultural and spiritual significance for the Tsilhqot’in.

“Our community has been fighting this for over 30 years,” William, who is also vice-chair of the Tsilhqot’in National Government, said. “Fish Lake is an aboriginal rights area, a place we have land rights to, to fish, and hunt, to catch and use wild horses.”

Chris Tollefson, lawyer with the Pacific Centre for Environmental Law and Litigation, said while there is no rule preventing government from issuing permits during final days in power “there is an obligation on the Crown and on government to conduct itself in a manner that upholds the honour of the Crown.”

Provinces will often issue permits or issue approvals in advance of a federal process, which is intended to signal their support of the proponent, Tollefson told DeSmog Canada.

“During the federal review process they’ll often be a cheerleader for the projects. We’ve seen that regularly in B.C.,” he said.

“What’s unusual here is the federal regulators have been pretty clear this project has some fundamental flaws, so in those circumstances you’d expect the province would take a more circumspect approach when there’s a transition of government and when First Nation rights and title issues are clearly at play.”

According to the Elections B.C. website Taseko donated $123,450 to the B.C. Liberals between 2008 and 2014.

Chief Russell Myers Ross of the Yunesit’in and director of the Tsilhqot’in National Government said he is “speechless at the timing of this insulting decision.”

“It defies compassion that while our people are fighting for our homes and lives, B.C. issues permits that will destroy more of our land beyond repair.”

The New Prosperity mine falls within the Tsilhqot’in Dasiqox Tribal Park, a conservation area the nation has constitutionally protected rights to hunt, fish and trap within.

Granting exploratory permits within Dasiqox “demonstrates a serious attack on meaningful reconciliation,” Ross said in a statement.

The Tsilhqot’in have previously vowed to fight any provincial permits granting Taseko exploratory rights for the mine.

Like a kid in a candy store
When those boxes of heavily redacted documents start to pile in, reporters at The Narwhal waste no time in looking for kernels of news that matter the most. Just ask our Prairies reporter Drew Anderson, who gleefully scanned through freedom of information files like a kid in a candy store, leading to pretty damning revelations in Alberta. Long story short: the government wasn’t being forthright when it claimed its pause on new renewable energy projects wasn’t political. Just like that, our small team was again leading the charge on a pretty big story

In an oil-rich province like Alberta, that kind of reporting is crucial. But look at our investigative work on TC Energy’s Coastal GasLink pipeline to the west, or our Greenbelt reporting out in Ontario. They all highlight one thing: those with power over our shared natural world don’t want you to know how — or why — they call the shots. And we try to disrupt that.

Our journalism is powered by people just like you. We never take corporate ad dollars, or put this public-interest information behind a paywall. Will you join the pod of Narwhals that make a difference by helping us uncover some of the most important stories of our time?
Like a kid in a candy store
When those boxes of heavily redacted documents start to pile in, reporters at The Narwhal waste no time in looking for kernels of news that matter the most. Just ask our Prairies reporter Drew Anderson, who gleefully scanned through freedom of information files like a kid in a candy store, leading to pretty damning revelations in Alberta. Long story short: the government wasn’t being forthright when it claimed its pause on new renewable energy projects wasn’t political. Just like that, our small team was again leading the charge on a pretty big story

In an oil-rich province like Alberta, that kind of reporting is crucial. But look at our investigative work on TC Energy’s Coastal GasLink pipeline to the west, or our Greenbelt reporting out in Ontario. They all highlight one thing: those with power over our shared natural world don’t want you to know how — or why — they call the shots. And we try to disrupt that.

Our journalism is powered by people just like you. We never take corporate ad dollars, or put this public-interest information behind a paywall. Will you join the pod of Narwhals that make a difference by helping us uncover some of the most important stories of our time?

Over half of Clayoquot Sound’s iconic forests are now protected — here’s how First Nations and B.C. did it

The forests of Clayoquot Sound became world famous as the battlegrounds of the decades-long “war in the woods” — and now, a vast swath of...

Continue reading

Recent Posts

Our newsletter subscribers are the first to find out when we break a big story. Sign up for free →
An illustration, in yellow, of a computer, with an open envelope inside it with letter reading 'Breaking news.'
Our newsletter subscribers are the first to find out when we break a major investigation. Want in? Sign up for free to get the inside scoop on The Narwhal’s environment and climate reporting.
Hey, are you on our list?
An illustration, in yellow, of a computer, with an open envelope inside it with letter reading 'Breaking news.'
Our newsletter subscribers are the first to find out when we break a major investigation. Want in? Sign up for free to get the inside scoop on The Narwhal’s environment and climate reporting.
Hey, are you on our list?
An illustration, in yellow, of a computer, with an open envelope inside it with letter reading 'Breaking news.'