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Court reverses B.C. government decision

By Michael Mui, 24 Hours Vancouver

The Chieftain Metals project site in northwestern B.C.

The Chieftain Metals project site in northwestern B.C. RIVERS WITHOUT BORDERS PHOTO

A First Nations group in northwestern B.C. has been given another chance to stop the revival of a mine on land they’ve laid claim to.

A decision rendered earlier this month in B.C. Supreme Court ruled government has to revisit a now-invalid decision that determined “substantial” work was started on the Chieftain Metals mixed-metals mine project by December 2012.

According to Ecojustice lawyer Randy Christensen, a project approval certificate was valid until that date — and once it’s elapsed, unless the proponent can prove substantial work had occurred at the mine, the certificate expires.

The Ministry of Environment determined in May 2012 that the project had made substantial progress, according to the court.

But that decision was made without aboriginal consultation — and it’s this reason the court has decided there needs to be a new decision made that includes consultation with the Taku River Tlingit First Nation, a band in the north close to where B.C. meets the Yukon and Alaska.

Christensen, who represented the First Nation, said his clients are opposed to the project because of environmental reasons — and they don’t think the project is financially viable.

“(Substantial work) includes things like your underground mine workings, it includes your waste sites, waste-processing facilities, transportation facilities ... those things aren’t there,” he said.

“The one thing that is there is an airstrip, but that predated the environment assessment (from the 1990s).”

The main service road to the mine, Christensen said, isn’t even finished. Miners used to get there by water access in the 1950s during the last time the mine had been active, the court noted.


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