Ottawa's second rejection of an open pit gold and copper mine near Williams Lake, B.C. is drawing celebration, lament and promises from both sides to keep on fighting.
First Nations in the region are celebrating what they call a victory for the environment and their culture, but the B.C. Liberal government, which has lobbied hard for the proposal, says the rejection is a colossal blow to the local economy — neither side is willing to give up.
Federal Minster of Environment Leona Agluqqak ruled yesterday the project could not proceed after an independent review found toxic runoff into nearby Fish Lake brought about by the mine poses irreparable environmental risks.
B.C.'s Cariboo region is one of untouched natural beauty, but it is also a place of severe economic hardship. Proponents of the New Prosperity Mine were hopeful the project would bring much-needed employment to the region.
"What this would have meant was 500 permanent jobs at the end of the day," said Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett.
She estimates the economic benefit to the province and Canada would be 1,200 jobs including including construction.
"I'm very disappointed. It means a lot of devastation as far as economic development," she said.
But, members of the Tsilhqot'in First Nation, who consider Fish Lake sacred territory, don't see it that way. In fact, Chief Joe Alphonse said the band is rejoicing.
"This company has been like a cancer that just won't go away," he said.
"It felt like we've been bullied all these years so to get the decision the way it came down, I'm very excited, it's huge news for us."
Alphonse said he, and the Tsilhqot'in people welcome a court fight.
Taseko Vice President of Corporate Affairs Brian Battison said the project's rejection is a tragedy for First Nations.
"The government of Canada has snatched away a first nations hope for a better future."
B.C.'s Minister of Energy and Mines, Bill Bennett, was a vocal supporter of the mine and has promised, along with Battison, that the government and Taseko will not give up.
"There's some kind of disconnect between the federal process and what actually happens out there on the ground," he said.
Bennett said the government will help Taseko in any way it can to appeal Ottawa's decision.
"This was a very positive opportunity, and on that basis I can tell you we're not going to give up on it," he said.
The proposed copper and gold mine was rejected once before in 2011 for similar environmental concerns.