Quote: From the very good and very strong letter below: “Your company is doing everything in its power to construct a massive open-pit mine in the heart of our traditional lands, and you have offered no options that do not require the complete destruction of an ancestral lake that has sustained our people for generations. You are coming into our homeland with plans to desecrate an enduring bond between our people and our lands that is deeper than you will ever understand - all for some twenty years of "prosperity". When you deride our efforts to honour our responsibilities and to protect our lands as "activist strategies", and when you complain that we still oppose your project after you have "exhausted" your imagination to please us, you make it abundantly clear that you have not heard a word that we have said, despite your careful records of countless meetings. We stand committed to the protection of Teztan Biny and our traditional lands. Your most recent letter makes it clear that Taseko still has not heard a word that we have said."
TSILHQOT'IN NATIONAL GOVERNMENT
#253 Fourth Avenue North -- Williams Lake, BC V2G
4T4 -- Phone (250) 392-3918 (250) 392-3918 -- Fax (250) 398-5798
October 29, 2009
Taseko Mines Ltd.
Suite 300 - 905 West Pender Street
Vancouver, British Columbia V6C 1L6
Attention: Brian Battison, Vice President, Corporate Affairs
Dear Mr. Battison:
We have reviewed your letter of October 27, 2009.
We asked Taseko to work with our First Nation to address the deficiencies in your EIS, as the Panel itself encouraged. Your letter not only rejects this request, but then continues, in typical fashion, to malign the character and motives of the Tsilhqot'in people and their leadership.
We make no apology for our opposition to this proposed Project so long as it requires the complete destruction of Teztan Biny and the surrounding lands and waters. Despite our many efforts to explain this position, Taseko continues to blame and deride our First Nation, our leaders and our people for their opposition to your Project.
You say that TNG ignored your letters requesting comments on Taseko's "so-called" consultation summary. That is completely untrue. Chief Ervin Charleyboy responded to you directly, by letter dated January 26, 2009, and he explained the position of the Tsilhqot'in Nation as follows:
Finally, it appears that we are confronting a fundamental difference of view on certain key issues that will not lend itself to resolution through dialogue. Your company has taken the firm position that the destruction of Teztan Biny is unavoidable if your Project is to proceed. We are determined, and charged with the duty, to protect and preserve Teztan Biny and the ancient and abiding connection of our people to this lake. This is a deep spiritual and cultural bond that makes us who we are as Tsilhqot'in people - once destroyed it is lost forever. It cannot be replaced with a new lake. Nonetheless, Chief Charleyboy stated that TNG remained open to engagement with Taseko on select issues of mutual benefit.
You say that "all efforts of Taseko to work with the TNG, or even obtain the most basic information, have been ignored and rebuffed". Again, this is completely untrue. In fact, it was Mr. Hallbauer that flatly rebuffed Chief Charleyboy's offer of continued engagement between TNG and Taseko, by letter dated Feb. 6, 2009, stating "I can't now possibly guess at what more we might be reasonably expected to do to satisfy you. You have exhausted our imagination. The Company has done all it can to engage with you".
I suggest that you review Chief Charleyboy's response to Mr. Hallbauer, dated March 6, 2009. It responds to the same allegations that run through your letter. Chief Charleyboy responds, in detail, to the assertion that Taseko has already "generously" funded TNG, and I will not repeat his response here. I will, however, remind you that when Taseko terminated funding to TNG, at the outset of the environmental review process, it left TNG with a considerable amount owing for work that was conducted in good faith. That amount is still outstanding.
Chief Charleyboy also responded, in detail, to the same insinuation that you raise yet again in your letter - namely, that it is somehow unreasonable or bad faith for the Tsilhqot'in people to oppose this Project. I cannot put it better than Chief Charleyboy:
"We made it clear on a number of occasions that the Xeni Gwet'in people and the Tsilhqot'in Nation strongly opposed the Prosperity Project so long as it requires the destruction of Teztan Biny. We have never wavered from that position.
Your company is doing everything in its power to construct a massive open-pit mine in the heart of our traditional lands, and you have offered no options that do not require the complete destruction of an ancestral lake that has sustained our people for generations. You are coming into our homeland with plans to desecrate an enduring bond between our people and our lands that is deeper than you will ever understand - all for some twenty years of "prosperity". When you deride our efforts to honour our responsibilities and to protect our lands as "activist strategies", and when you complain that we still oppose your project after you have "exhausted" your imagination to please us, you make it abundantly clear that you have not heard a word that we have said, despite your careful records of countless meetings. We stand committed to the protection of Teztan Biny and our traditional lands. Your most recent letter makes it clear that Taseko still has not heard a word that we have said."
I have attached this correspondence record so that the Panel has the opportunity to judge for itself whether Taseko in fact remains willing to work with First Nations, as it repeatedly claims. Every day, we hear the fears and apprehensions of our communities about the potentially devastating impacts of your proposed project in an area of our homeland that holds very special cultural and spiritual significance for our people. Taseko may disagree with our position, but we see no reason for Taseko to continually turn a deaf ear to these concerns, or to blame and disparage the Tsilhqot'in people and leadership for opposing its Project.
The Tsilhqot'in people are opposed to any mine that would destroy Teztan Biny, but the conduct of Taseko, its willingness to blame First Nations loudly at every turn, and its disregard for our deeply felt concerns, has only deepened our apprehension. Operating any major project in an area of such importance to a First Nation requires an ongoing relationship based on trust and respect, to avoid conflict and turmoil. In this case, we are not even through the environmental assessment, and Taseko has made it all too clear that it is not able or willing to bridge differences or build trust. Its recent letters and statements in the media are clearly intended to aggravate rather than resolve conflict.
Taseko's inability to build relationships with local First Nations, to understand their perspective, or to avoid fanning the flames of conflict and blame, are just a few more reasons why it is not in the public interest to approve this project in the heart of Tsilhqot'in traditional lands, over the strong objections of our people.
ON BEHALF OF THE TSILHQOT'IN NATIONAL GOVERNMENT:
Roger William, TNG Stewardship Director
cc: Panel Members, c/o Colette Spagnuolo, Panel Manager - via email.
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