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Greed & Destruction at Fish Lake Part 2: Historical Perspective

Fish Lake, BC, threatened by mining Fish Lake, BC, threatened by mining

Last week, RosebudMag.com published the first in our series on the battle over Fish Lake. In short, Taseko Mines Limited wants to destroy land used by the Tsilhqot'in Nation, who have lived in the area surrounding Teztan Biny (Chilcotin for Fish Lake) for millennia. The provincial government of British Columbia gave Taseko the thumbs up to convert the lake into a toxic waste dump, only to be overruled by Canada’s federal government. In Part 2 of our coverage, we look at the recurring attempts to develop Prosperity Mine on indigenous land.

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{reg}The federal position on Prosperity Mine was established back in 1995, around the time Taseko first made the proposal to ruin the wilderness area by mining it. At least three federal fisheries ministers since then have told Taseko that destroying the lake was a no-go.

But Taseko has continued to work at their initial goal, never developing an alternative proposal that would spare the lake. That patience nearly paid off in 2006 when Canada’s Liberal Party was voted out of power, making way for the Conservative Government headed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Harper’s fisheries minister, Loyola Hearn, reversed the federal decision on Prosperity Mine, which opened up a new review of the Taseko proposal. Things moved forward in the mine’s favor until this month, when outgoing Federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice decided to deny the proposal. Will the latest rejection finally change Taseko’s approach?

Fish lakeFish lakeEither way, the Tsilhqot'in people are prepared to defend their heritage as well as the area’s flora and fauna (including an endangered grizzly bear population and salmon in a nearby river). The Tsilhqot'in have inhabited the land for countless generations and are passionate about their home and their culture. The nation’s leader, Chief Marilyn Baptiste has publically expressed the willingness of her people to take up arms and put their lives on the line to defend their homeland.

Canada’s indigenous people have a long history of standing up to the federal government. As recently as the 1990s, armed conflicts pitting First Nations against police in the provinces of Quebec, Ontario, and British Columbia have resulted in gunshot wounds and/or deaths on both sides.

So what’s the role of the reader in this story?

Taseko wants to mine gold. Most of the gold mined in North America is used to make jewelry. So what kind of mine did the gold in your wedding band come from? If issues like this are ever going to change, it’s going to start with the people really driving projects like the Prosperity Mine. And that’s the consumer. If clean water, protection of wildlife, and human rights are really of any concern to us, then we have to first look to ourselves and what effect our lives have on these situations.

A native chief explains the significance of the Lake

When it comes to Fish Lake and Taseko Mines, the issue may be about greed, environmentalism, human rights, and the economy, but it is equally about self-awareness. None of us are unconnected.

Stay tuned to RosebudMag.com for Part 3 in our seven-part series on Fish Lake, a look at the role of both the provincial and federal governments in the story.

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Last modified on Thursday, 08 November 2012 11:00

Happy is a regular contributor to RosebudMag.com and has written for various other publications, including Black Belt, Inside Hockey, and FoxSports.com. He transitioned to life as a writer following a decade-long career as a touring musician. He lives with his son in Vancouver, British Columbia

Website: www.rosebudmag.com/hkreter

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