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Taseko asked Minister Kent to restrict First Nations' role in mine review

The president and CEO of Taseko Mines Ltd. wrote to Canadian Environment Minister Peter Kent asking the federal government to limit First Nations participation in the review of Prosperity Mine, a project opposed by the Tsilhqot'in National Government.

On Nov. 7, 2011, the federal government announced a review panel would be appointed for an environmental assessment of Taseko's revised proposal for the mine. A previous federal panel advised against the earlier version of the project, which would have had "significant adverse environmental effects."

Taseko's Russell Hallbauer said his company's foremost concern with the previous process, and which it does not want repeated, was the government's appointment of the coordinator of the Tahltan Central Council to the panel.

"This occurred even though it was known full well that the panel would be required to consider extensive issues and concerns raised by aboriginal persons," he wrote. "In our view this was a fundamentally unfair thing to do, as panel members should be independent and not be viewed as representative of any perspectives of any particular interest that will be appearing before the panel."

Hallbauer also wrote that it was inappropriate to begin hearings with an aboriginal prayer ceremony and he questioned the prominence the panel's report gave to aboriginal spirituality.

Here is the full three-page letter, dated Nov. 23, 2011.

The Tsilhqot'in National Government has called the letter "deeply offensive."

"We have warned over and over again that this company does not understand or respect First Nations or our issues," Chief Joe Alphonse was quoted saying in a May 1 press release. "This letter proves, once again, that this is the wrong project, in the wrong place, by the wrong company."

"I think what this letter reflects is a continued diminishment of First Nations rights and title," said Bob Simpson, the MLA for Cariboo North. "I just don't get how they think this is going to help them by continually poking the TNG in the eye."

Simpson said he wants a good, thorough process so that everyone feels they've been heard in the way they choose to express themselves and there is community acceptance of the panel's recommendations, whatever they may be.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee's Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

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