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New Prosperity plan puts lake on 'life support': Tsilhqot'in chief

Open houses are underway for the New Prosperity project, a controversial copper and gold mine proposed for the Cariboo Chilcotin region.

About 100 people attended an open house hosted by the mine's proponents, Taseko Mines Ltd., yesterday in Williams Lake, according to the Williams Lake Tribune. Another is scheduled for tonight in 100-Mile House.

In its original project proposal, Taseko sought to drain Fish Lake -- or Teztan Biny, as its known by the Tsilhqot'in First Nation -- and use it to store waste rock generated by mining activities. That proposal was accepted in 2010 by the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office (later criticized by the provincial Auditor General for failing to adequately assess the environmental risks of large-scale development projects like mines) but was ultimately rejected by a federal environmental review panel.

Last year, Taseko came back with another proposal for New Prosperity which locates the tailings pond two kilometres from Fish Lake instead of beside it. Waste rock would be hauled to another location.

"This investment, along with the benefit that will flow from it, can be accomplished without significant risk to the environment and with the very highest standards of mine development being practiced in the world," Brian Battison, Taseko's vice president of corporate affairs said at the open house presentation.

The Tsilhqot'in Nation issued a press release yesterday criticizing the new plan, saying it "merely puts the lake on temporary life support."

"We saw in the last environmental assessment how far the company's predictions were from reality," stated Tsilhqot'in National Government Tribal Chair Chief Joe Alphonse in the release. "The company said there would be no significant impacts. But an independent federal panel described a whole range of massive cultural and environmental impacts. This company has no credibility with us."

Colleen Kimmett reports for The Tyee.

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