More than 400 people showed up Monday at the first day of public hearings into Taseko’s proposed $1-billion open pit gold and copper mine near Williams Lake, B.C.
Taseko says the New Prosperity project will create about 700 direct jobs and produce $10 billion in revenue for the federal and provincial governments over its 20-year lifetime.
Williams Lake business owner Lorne Doerksen says the mine would be a huge benefit to B.C.’s Cariboo region.
"That amount of money coming into this community could really help," he said.
"It's been a tough time in our town for a number of years. It's sort of rebounding a little bit now ... The forest industry has gone through a real tough cycle. They are coming out of it, but we still see a community shrinking."
Ervin Charleyboy, a former chief of the Alexis Creek First Nation, attended the hearing with a blue scarf draped around his neck — a symbol worn by those who support the New Prosperity mine.
Charleyboy didn't always support the project, but now believes the mine is desperately needed to bring jobs to the region.
"I see my young people living from welfare cheque to welfare cheque every month," he said. "We've got nothing out there. After logging, we will have nothing."
Meanwhile, those opposed to the project waved signs bearing slogans like, "Our lakes are worth more than gold."
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Xeni Gwet'in councillor Marilyn Baptiste believes the mine will have devastating consequences for the local environment.
"It's very angering to our people," she said. "Why do we have to go back and review another proposal?"
Taseko provided an overview of the project on the first day of hearings, including new plans to move the project’s tailings pond so Fish Lake can be preserved.
The company had initially proposed to drain Fish Lake in an earlier application rejected by the federal government in 2010.
The project would be located about 125 kilometres southwest of Williams Lake.
The hearings are scheduled to continue until mid-August.