Taseko Mines President and CEO Russell Halbauer sent a letter to Federal Minister of Environment Peter Kent in November 2011, questioning the fairness and objectivity of the Federal Review Panel process.
(TNG drummers, singers and guests share a song during the Amnesty International presentation regarding Prosperity Mine in the Gibraltar Room last November.)
He said that the “first and most significant” concern is that, during the first federal review process, one of the panel members was acting as coordinator for a First Nations organization—advocating for land usage right.
Taseko also believes, according to the letter, that is was not appropriate for the panel to begin its hearing with an aboriginal prayer ceremony. The letter said that one of the things that questioned the objectivity of the panel were certain presentations that were allowed, including a play put on by children wearing fish cut-outs on the their heads, and then falling on the floor, symbolizing the death of the fish.
Mr. Halbauer said that another example of unfairness was what he called “a 40 minute sensational movie entitled ‘Blue Gold: the Tsihlqot’in Fight for Tetzan Biny.’”
He also stated that Taseko wanted to raise concerns about spiritual issues being addressed during the review process.
Russell Halbauer concluded the letter by saying that he raised these concerns in a positive spirit, with the goal of ensuring that the next panel process is effective, efficient and fair.
“The new CEAA Panel will soon be appointed, and the fight to stop ‘New Prosperity’ Mine is increasing in strength,” stated the Friends of Nemiah in a press release today. “It's important to remember that not only was the proposed destruction of Fish Lake/Teztan Biny an important factor in the first refusal, the Panel also found the mine ‘would result in significant adverse environmental effects on fish and fish habitat, on navigation, on the current use of lands and resources for traditional purposes by First Nations and on cultural heritage, and on certain potential or established Aboriginal rights or title.’
“These issues are not resolved by the ‘new’ proposal.”
The Tsilhqot’in National Government (TNG) calls the letter from Taseko Mines ‘deeply offensive’ and states that First Nations are alarmed that the draft Terms of Reference for the new Panel, which are expected to be finalized any day, would drastically reduce or even remove the new Panel’s mandate to consider impacts on Aboriginal rights.
“What concerns us is this letter is part of a major lobbying campaign by TML, which had three lobbyists registered in Ottawa on this file,” adds Chief Joe Alphonse. “The failure of CEAA or the government to assure us the rules of the game are not going to be changed for this second review – which should never have been granted in the first place – obviously makes us wonder if we should be worried that the fix is in.”
Today’s press release from the TNG says that the profound spiritual importance of this area to the Tsilhqot’in people was a significant factor in the decision of the federal panel that reviewed the original Prosperity Mine proposal. It states that proposal was soundly rejected by the Federal Government in November 2010, in part based on permanent, high magnitude impacts on Tsilhqot’in culture and cultural heritage.
“This is a black eye to the mining industry and we hope it is not one it would endorse, but we are not surprised that Mr. Hallbauer would write such an offensive letter,” said Chief Alphonse. “We have warned over and over again that this company does not understand or respect First Nations or our issues. This letter proves, once again, that this is the wrong project, in the wrong place, by the wrong company.”
The original letter can be found at this link:
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