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Minister shows 'complete disregard' for indigenous mining rights, says group

Comments made by B.C.'s Minister of State for Mining about a recent report -- which reveals the deleterious effects of mining on B.C. First Nations -- represent "a complete disregard" for indigenous rights, says the Council of Canadians.

Minister Randy Hawes called the report by Harvard Law School's human rights program "hogwash", arguing that the province is making "great strides" with First Nations.

"For the minister to come out and say that it's hogwash, it just clearly indicates that Gordon Campbell and the Liberal government's policy of being friendly to indigenous communities and consulting them only works at their convenience," said Harjap Grewal of the Council of Canadians.

The province recently approved a 25-year lease for Taseko Mines Ltd.'s Prosperity project, a gold and copper mine located within Tsilhqot'in territories, south-west of Williams Lake, B.C.

Today, the Council for Canadians and Tsilhqot'in Nation opposed the development, holding a rally outside of the mining company's annual general meeting in downtown Vancouver.

The mining company is currently seeking regulatory approval from the federal government to move the Prosperity project forward.

Grewal said that regardless of whatever decisions are made by government, groups will continue opposing the project.

"When the Enbridge pipeline issue came up in the legislature, Gordon Campbell said [the province] was going to work with these communities," said Grewal. "Well, if they want to work with indigenous groups, why are they even considering letting this mine go ahead when every single community in the Tsilhqot'in Nation has said no to this mine?"

"It shows complete disrepect and complete disregard for indigenous rights."

Robyn Smith is completing a practicum at The Tyee.

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