The native group opposing the Prosperity Mine in northern British Columbia has little faith in the just-launched federal environmental review of the project, CTV News reports.
Chief Joe Alphonse, leader of the Tsilqhot'in National Government, told CTV the approval of Prosperity is "a foregone conclusion," given the Harper government's attitude towards hearings currently underway on the Northern Gateway oilsands pipeline:
"We feel the writing's on the wall. Mr. Harper is making statements around the Enbridge project that anyone opposing the project is an enemy of Canada. That's the same situation."
Harper's government has been under fire over its handling of the hearings ever since Harper and Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver complained that "radical environmental groups" funded by U.S. trusts have hijacked the hearings being conducted by the National Energy Board.
The proposal for the open-pit mine 125 kilometres from Williams Lake, put forward by Taseko Mines Ltd., was resubmitted for environmental review about a year ago after the federal government rejected the original proposal in fall of 2010. A provincial environmental assessment process had approved the $1.5 billion project.
The mine plan raised the ire of environmentalists and First Nations groups for the proposed destruction of a lake to be used as a tailings impoundment.
Taseko announced last February it was taking another run at Prosperity with a revised plan that would cost an additional $300 million and involves building a new tailings pond, rather than draining trout-bearing Fish Lake.
But the company and local natives clashed last fall over necessary work at the site needed for the environmental review, and both parties ended up in court. Eventually the Tsilqhot'in First Nation was awarded a court injunction to prevent Taseko from working at the site pending the outcome of the review.
Taseko notes that Prosperity is the 7th largest undeveloped gold-copper porphyry deposit in the world. If approved, the mine would have a 20-year life and produce up to 70,000 tonnes of ore per day.