WILLIAMS LAKE, B.C. _ The First Nations fighting a proposed gold and copper mine in the British Columbia Interior say it's a disgrace that the provincial mines minister is pressuring Ottawa to approve the mine, against the advice of an environmental review panel.
And the Tsilhqot'in (tsill-COAT-teen) National Government says if the federal government does so, it could be on the hook for millions in compensation because it will take the project to court.
``We hope the ministers have our constitutional rights in mind, because this project clearly violates our aboriginal rights, as well as our human rights as indigenous peoples. If the federal government approves this mine, it could be on the hook for millions to the company in compensation when the courts strike down those approvals,'' Chief Roger William of the Xeni Gwet'in First Nations said.
Mining Minister Bill Bennett joined several business leaders earlier this week in urging the federal government to approve the Taseko Mines Ltd. (TSX: T.TKO, Stock Forum)proposed New Prosperity mine _ the tenth largest undeveloped gold-copper deposit in the world.
The mine was rejected once before because the project proposed to use a lake significant to area First Nations as a tailings pond, but the company revised the plan and reapplied.
The second environmental review also found the mine would have adverse environmental effects. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency report last month found that the billion-dollar project would cause ``significant adverse environmental effects'' on water quality, fish and fish habitat in a lake of significance to area First Nations.
But Taseko has launched a judicial review, saying the panel used the wrong information to come to its conclusions.
The site 125 kilometres southwest of Williams Lake, B.C., is the tenth largest undeveloped gold-copper deposit in the world and Bennett said the mine will create 750 construction jobs and 500 permanent jobs in an area that has been devastated by the pine beetle epidemic.
Tsilhqot'in Tribal Chairman Joe Alphonse says the province is on a path toward ``all-out conflict'' with First Nations over aboriginal rights.
Taseko shares eased 0.99% to $2.01 on Thursday, leaving a market cap of $387.4 million, based on 192.7 million shares outstanding. The 52-week range is $3.48 and $1.88.