The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

B.C., Tories speak out against federal government's gold mine decision

  • Print

VANCOUVER - Two veteran Conservative MPs are speaking out against their own government after a proposal for a billion-dollar gold and copper mine in British Columbia was rejected by Ottawa for a second time.

Federal Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq announced late Wednesday that she has rejected the $1.5-billion plan from Taseko Mines Ltd. (TSX:TKO) over environmental concerns.

A broad range of opponents celebrated the decision, including the Sierra Club, the Council of Canadians and the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs.

But Conservative MPs Dick Harris and Cathy McLeod both publicly objected.

Harris, who was first elected under the Reform banner in 1993, said he felt "a little bit of despair" about a decision, which shatters the hopes of thousands of people in the Cariboo-Chilcotin region he represents.

He described it as an economically depressed area where many people have been forced to leave to find work elsewhere.

"Taseko mine was their ticket to come back," Harris said in an interview. "The Taseko project was going to allow them to be trained and skilled and employed in a good-paying, 25- to 30-year job in the mine just right out in the area where they live. And this is gone now as a result of the decision."

McLeod, who represents the neighbouring Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo riding, called it a huge blow.

"There are tens of thousands of people in the Cariboo who were looking at this project as a lifeline and an opportunity in communities that have been very hard hit," she said. "I really am feeling incredibly disappointed."

The gold and copper deposit where the mine was planned is 125 kilometres southwest of Williams Lake, B.C., and is the tenth-largest undeveloped deposit in the world.

Aglukkaq said she rejected the mine because it would have had significant adverse environmental effects that could not be mitigated.

A similar proposal by Taseko was approved by the B.C. government four years ago but rejected by Ottawa because the plan included draining a lake to hold tailings.

The B.C. government lobbied hard for the revised proposal, which the company said preserved Fish Lake, but a federal environmental review panel found the mine would still have significant adverse effects.

B.C. Mines Minister Bill Bennett, who had visited Ottawa several times in recent months to press for approval, said the company had a plan that would have avoided the dire impacts that were feared.

"I wasn't successful in making the case in a strong enough way for the federal government to give them the courage that they would have needed to have essentially gone against their own (review) panel," Bennett said.

A spokeswoman for Aglukkaq said she respects the disappointed, but the government is committed to making such decisions based on the scientific evidence and environmental considerations.

"A rigorous review by an independent review panel determined that the project would result in significant adverse environmental impacts, and the Governor in Council determined that these impacts are not justified," Jennifer Kennedy said in an emailed response to questions.

Taseko is pursuing a judicial review of the assessment in Federal Court, arguing that the panel used the wrong information in drawing its conclusions.

Brian Battison, vice-president of corporate affairs, said the company won't take no for an answer.

"Some are going to say the government of Canada has abandoned their stated priorities of creating jobs and growth and lasting prosperity of resource development," he said following the announcement.

Bennett said he's convinced the mine will go ahead someday, but Tsilhqot'in Tribal Chairman Joe Alphonse, whose area nations vehemently fought the mine, predicted the project is dead.

Karina Bri�o, president and CEO of the Mining Association of BC, said the project represented a generational opportunity for local residents, including First Nations, but the decision affect's Canada's reputation as a safe jurisdiction in which to invest.

"As the largest private-sector employer of First Nations in B.C., mining represents significant potential for aboriginal youth in the Cariboo-Chicotin, offering high quality jobs close to home for Williams Lake and surround communities," said Bri�o in a news release.

"It is a missed opportunity for the people and province of B.C."

Williams Lake Mayor Kerry Cook said her community is resilient, but people were still upset.

"There's shock, there's anger, there's frustration, there's disillusionment with the decision," she said. "We need to find a way to move forward."

Follow @vivluk on Twitter

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Jim Flaherty remembered at visitation as irreplaceable

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Horses enjoy a beautiful September morning east of Neepawa, Manitoba  - Standup Photo– Sept 04, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • Carolyn Kavanagh(10) had this large dragonfly land on her while spending time at Winnetka Lake, Ontario. photo by Andrea Kavanagh (mom0 show us your summer winnipeg free press

View More Gallery Photos


Do you think Manitoba needs stronger regulations for temporary workers?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google