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Former British Columbia First Nations chief lobbies for New Prosperity mine

DANIEL PROUSSALIDIS | QMI AGENCY

OTTAWA - Supporters of the proposed New Prosperity copper-gold mine in central B.C. are digging deep, hoping to find a vein of federal political backing for the project.

Ervin Charleyboy, a former tribal chief from the Tsilhqot'in (Chilcotin) First Nation, said he wants the Conservatives to know the project Taseko Mines wants to build would mean jobs for young aboriginals.

"The reserves out there, they have nothing to offer these young people," Charleyboy said. "They resort to crime, drugs, alcohol. It's awful out there."

Charleyboy travelled to Ottawa with a delegation that includes the B.C. Chamber of Commerce meeting with the Tories' B.C. caucus to press for the project's approval.

The former aboriginal leader said he also discussed the issue briefly with Prime Minister Stephen Harper last month.

"He said he's keeping an eye on this," said Charleyboy, whose stance puts him at odds with current Tsilhqot'in aboriginal leadership.

Roger William, a sitting Tsilhqot'in chief, is dead-set against the new mine.

"Our people will not be able to hunt or fish in that area because of concerns of contamination, so therefore it is going to impact our culture and use of the land," he said in November.

A federal environmental panel has twice recommended against approving New Prosperity for fear of water pollution from its tailings pond, though Taseko says the panel ignored the inclusion of a liner to prevent pond leaks.

Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq has until Feb. 28 to decide whether Taseko should be allowed to apply for permits to build the mine.

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