Thursday, September 18, 2014
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Opinion: First Nations, mining for change

Agreement would give new meaning to New Prosperity mine’s name

By Russell Hallbauer, Special to the Vancouver Sun

Many readers likely will have read that the British Columbia government has now signed 14 economic development agreements with First Nations across the province. These agreements commit the provincial government to share up to 37 per cent of the B.C. mineral tax from B.C. mining operations collected within First Nations’ traditional territories.

Over the past four years, $12 million has been shared with various First Nations. The most recent agreement was the one signed May 21 on the Huckleberry Mine, a few hundred km from Williams Lake.

A similar agreement is being developed between the government and those bands in proximity to our Gibraltar Mine.

These agreements, over the next 25 years of Gibraltar’s life, will allow First Nations communities to benefit directly over and above employment and other opportunities, in the financial success of the Gibraltar Mine.

Taseko personnel were some of the earliest advocates of revenue sharing when the process began with government and the Mining Association of British Columbia a number of years ago.

In that context, everyone in the Cariboo should appreciate what a revenue sharing agreement on New Prosperity would mean to not only First Nations, but to all the communities of the Cariboo. Over the life of the mine, it is expected New Prosperity would generate (at projected long-term metal prices) close to $500 million in B.C. mineral tax. This would mean that First Nations — or at least those First Nations that sign on to such agreements — would receive about $185 million in direct payments over the course of the mine life when New Prosperity is built and operating: or about $9 million per year. However, if the price of copper and gold were to return to $4-per-pound and $1,500-per-ounce levels, respectively, and hold for the life of the mine, the mineral tax generated by New Prosperity would be nearly $1 billion, meaning First Nation participants would receive $370 million or $18 million each year, $1.5 million per month.

What would that mean to many of the First Nation communities throughout the Cariboo in terms of support programs for mental health and well-being, enhancing community services of all kinds to help people deal with any number of social issues? How would those direct dollars help the youth of the communities to gain self-respect and a purpose in life? One need go no further than to see how Taseko’s relationship with the Williams Lake Indian Band has helped that community and the youth.

On top of these projected payments to First Nations, jobs and opportunity will be created for all native and non-native people, importantly First Nations youth, such as those now being trained through AMTA, and such as those from the Soda Creek Band, Alexandria, and the Williams Lake Band members who work at Gibraltar.

It’s time for the First Nations leaders of the communities across the Cariboo to look to the future of their communities, and to what real leadership means, and that means embracing change for the betterment of all citizens — both native and non-native.

Taseko remains committed to addressing any and all environmental concerns on New Prosperity, operate it just like Gibraltar has operated for the past 40 years, and address impacts on Fish Lake to the satisfaction of our local First Nation neighbours as well as the federal government.

We are open to dealing with all groups to develop a path forward in that process so that the entire Cariboo can share in the success of New Prosperity as so many are now sharing in the success at Gibraltar.

Russell Hallbauer is president and CEO of Taseko Mines

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