Provincial opposition leader Adrian Dix says two government officials in particular should feel ashamed of their support for the New Prosperity mine proposal.
A review panel gave the thumbs down to the proposal, but the final decision rested with the federal government. On Wednesday, the word from Ottawa was also "no" to building the mine in the Cariboo-Chilcotin region. It was the second time the two entities combined to say no to the project led by Taseko Mines.
"[Premier] Christy Clark and [Minister of Energy and Mines] Bill Bennett have got to be pretty embarrassed here. They got caught being more right-wing than the Stephen Harper government," he said. "They are really on the fringe of things, here, really out of tune."
The provincial government was openly lobbying for the project to go ahead, despite loud opposition from the Tsilhqot'in National Government and from environmental groups concerned about the effects to the ecosystem in the vicinity of the gold/copper deposit.
The provincial government's environmental assessment department gave the project the green light before the joint review panel said no the first time. The response since then from the provincial government has been that the economic benefits to the region, including the Tsilhqot'in, outweighed the concerns since Taseko had a plan to contain the environmental effects during the proposed mine's life and restore the site once it was finished.
Taseko has initiated court action, insisting the review panel made decisions without considering the correct environmental science.
Dix said the science was only part of the equation, and not even the decisive one. The opposition of the resident First Nation was enough.
"They were just not in favour of this mine," Dix said.
He added that the time needed to assess a mine proposal - about 10 years - is too long.
"It should be five years, and you would get there if you applied more resources to the process," he said, and that the additional money spent on the staff and streamlining would be more than offset by the uptick in mining business that would result.
"It just isn't fair for a mining company to invest in waiting that long period of time. It costs the mining company money and opportunities, it creates deep divisions in communities, and by the way, you may not get a mine out of it at all. It is also a bad thing for people who oppose mines.
"The Tsilhqot'in people have more productive things to do than spend all these resources to keep asserting their rights, especially when they are not 'closed for business' people. They are working with other mining companies, they are willing to take part in industrial projects that make sense."
Dix said there are clear examples of what works in B.C. mining. New Afton, Mount Milligan, Red Chris are all new mines that got to "yes" because they worked with, not against, the affected First Nations, he said. The proposals having problems are the ones struggling with aboriginal relations in the sites they have identified.
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