Osisko’s proposed Cariboo Gold Project in Wells is about what future we want for the north.
Prince George residents know Wells as the location of the Arts Wells festival, the Island Mountain Arts School, the Gourmet Ski Tour, the 7 Summits Hike and Bike Race, the Dog Sled Mail Run, Barkerville, Bowron Lake, and countless summer and winter trailheads giving unparalleled access to stunning backcountry. It is an iconic cultural and wilderness destination, and home to mountain cariboo, bears, and rare interior rainforest habitat.
Over the last 150 years, the subalpine valleys around Wells have hosted two environmentally destructive gold rushes. Time erased the worst impacts, but now Wells is reckoning with a third gold mining proposal that could take us back to 1862.
Osisko Development wants to open a huge extraction operation that would triple the footprint of Wells. Most of its above ground infrastructure, including a concentrator, paste backfill plant, and settling pond, will be located right at the entrance to town. A new transmission line will create yet another barrier to migrating wildlife, and mine traffic will increase between Quesnel and Wells.
All this for short term gain – Osisko plans for the mine to close in just 16 years.
Montreal-based Osisko claims it has the best interest of locals in mind, but actions speak louder than words. Over the past decade of exploration, Osisko has regularly violated its tenure agreements and Wells bylaws. It is registered on the federal Environmental Offenders list under its old name, Barkerville Gold Mines.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, northerners benefited from the ability to recreate close to home. The natural resource industries have always been at the centre of work and culture in the north, but we have worked hard to build sustainable economies that balance wealth with healthy, vibrant communities. We value the hard work people have undergone to make places like Wells a centre for northern culture and outdoor recreation.
We must consider the interests of northerners when we consider natural resource projects “beyond Hope.”
Do we want our home to be just a pot of resources benefiting distant shareholders? Or do we want independent and sustainable lives for our families to enjoy for generations? Our communities are resources more valuable than gold. Let’s choose to support projects that support northern culture and environment, not undermine them. Let’s take a stand on the future we want for the north.