WILLIAMS LAKE, B.C. - Jul. 26, 2016 -  The Tsilhqot’in National Government (TNG) is speaking out against Taseko Mines Limited’s (TSX:TKO) recent statements about proceeding with an amendment process for its 2010 provincial approval, and its intention to apply for permits to conduct further drilling in the Teztan Biny (Fish Lake)/Nabas region.

The Federal Government rejected both the Prosperity and New Prosperity Mine proposals after independent expert panels delivered two of the most scathing environmental assessment reports in Canadian history, describing profound cultural and environmental impacts.

The project cannot proceed in the face of the Federal Government rejection.  It is unbelievable and unacceptable that TML continues to waste everyone’s time, energy, money and goodwill—including its own shareholders of Taseko stock and Canadian taxpayers. This is being done after independent federal panels found the project posed significant and immitigable impacts to the environment, Tsilhqot’in Aboriginal rights, culture, identity and way of life, and the Harper government firmly rejected the mine on the basis of Tsilhqot'in vs. Taseko mines.

Even if TML were successful in the B.C. amendment process, the New Prosperity project cannot be built because it does not have federal environmental approvals.

The Tsilhqot’in Nation has one of Canada’s only court declarations of proven Aboriginal hunting and trapping rights in the area of the proposed mine. In December 2011, the B.C. Supreme Court noted that each new incursion into the area with a drilling program causes irreparable damage to habitat and further diminishes the exercise of Aboriginal rights by the Tsilhqot’in people.

The Tsilhqot’in Nation is opposed to any further disturbance at Teztan Biny and Yanah Biny and will take steps to ensure that this does not occur.

Chief Roger William, Vice-Chair of the Tsilhqot’in National Government and Chief of the Xeni Gwet’in First Nation:

“The area of this proposal is an area of declared Aboriginal Rights and adjacent to the first ever declared Aboriginal title lands. It is a place of tremendous cultural and spiritual importance for our people—it is a cultural school, a gathering place, burial grounds and home for our members who were born and raised there.  The area is also within Xeni Gwet’in’s trapline area. Our people have stood up twice, our voices were heard, and this project was rejected. We live in a time when the land needs to be protected for our future generations. We need to find another way forward that respects our basic human rights as Indigenous peoples to self-determination and protection of the lands and waters that sustain our way of life.”

Chief Russell Myers Ross, Chief of Yunesit’in:

“Taseko Mines Limited has proposed this mine twice through the federal CEAA review process and failed: it is a dead project. Nevertheless, it appears there is renewed hope to capitalize on failure. It seems clear to us that TML is again just toying with people and investor's money and that they have no real plan other than making manoeuvres and threats to be bought out by B.C.. It is my opinion that TML acts in contempt of the public good. Teztan Biny is preserved as a cultural area, in the headwaters of one of the most diverse ecosystems in Canada, and it is the Tsilhqot'in nation’s intent to keep it that way."


BACKGROUND


Open Letter to the Shareholders of Taseko Mines Ltd.

The Information Circular released by Taseko Mines Ltd. (TML) on March 31st states that “Taseko has a very successful relationship with First Nations at Gibraltar”.  We respectfully and strongly disagree with this statement and we need to set the record straight so shareholders are fully informed about TML management’s record in dealing with the Tsilhqot’in Nation.  We can only describe this record as disrespectful.

TML has operated the 44-year old Gibraltar Mine—Canada’s second largest open pit copper mine—since 1999.  ?Esdilagh, a member of Tsilhqot’in Nation, is the closest Aboriginal community to Gibraltar Mine—?Esdilagh reserve lands almost directly adjoin the mine site.

For years, the Tsilhqot’in Nation and ?Esdilagh have urged the management of TML to enter into a meaningful Impact Benefit Agreement with ?Esdilagh, so that there is a share in the benefits from the mining operation and not just the decades of negative impacts. However, to date, TML’s management has offered only short-term agreements on terms that are unacceptable to ?Esdilagh and, in our view, far below industry standards.  As a result, TML still does not have ?Esdilagh or Tsilhqot’in consent for the Gibraltar Mine.

The management of TML has also been repeatedly disrespectful, litigious and insensitive in matters involving the Tsilhqot’in Nation.  In particular, TML’s management has twice embarked on trying to get the Prosperity, and then New Prosperity, project permitted in an area of profound cultural and spiritual importance to the Tsilhqot’in Nation. The Tsilhqot’in Nation had warned TML’s management—in no uncertain terms—the area was too highly important to our people and to the survival of our culture to allow the mine to proceed contrary to our mining policy.

The costs for shareholders of TML’s management proceeding in the face of these clear warnings have been significant.  Twice the Federal Government rejected Prosperity and then New Prosperity, each lengthy and expensive environmental assessment process resulted in a significant loss in market capitalization, in our opinion. In the lawsuit filed by TML on February 11th, 2016, the company states it has spent well over $130 Million on the failed permitting costs for both Prosperity and New Prosperity.

This figure does not include further litigation costs for the failed defamation lawsuit against the Wilderness Committee (where TML has been ordered to pay special costs); the two judicial reviews in Federal Court in response to the Federal Government’s rejection of New Prosperity; and the lawsuit in the BC Supreme Court against the Federal Government for damages. The figure also ignores the negative social and community impacts from the process on our communities, and the enormous waste of time and money that the Tsilhqot’in Nation has incurred.

TML’s current management has been consistently disrespectful to the Tsilhqot’in Nation by advancing the Prosperity project over the strong objections of our people, in a place of such profound cultural and spiritual significance, and by refusing to enter into a meaningful IBA to fairly compensate ?Esdilagh for the impacts of their existing mine, Gibraltar. 

In June 2014, the Supreme Court of Canada recognized our Aboriginal Title.  This has only strengthened our resolve.

Mining has evolved.  The simple truth is if you want to build a mine, then you first have to build a relationship, based on respect and trust.  The current management of TML has burnt that bridge and the shareholders of TML have suffered huge losses because of management’s flawed strategy. 

It is time for TML to do the right thing at Gibraltar and make sure ?Esdilagh community sees not only impacts, but also meaningful benefits from the Gibraltar Mine.  It is time TML built a real relationship with ?Esdilagh and the Tsilhqot’in Nation, starting with a fair benefit sharing agreement for Gibraltar Mine.

We think it’s time for a change.
Yours respectfully

Chief Joe Alphonse                                                                Chief Bernie Mack

Tribal Chair, Tsilhqot’in National Government                    ?Esdilagh First Nation

Tel: 250-305-8282                                                                  Tel: 250-267-8814

Tsilhqot'in vs. Taseko Mines: Denial of the Reality of New Prosperity