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We need to save Fish Lake

 The Harper cabinet is facing a decision that will go a long way toward revealing how serious the government is about balancing environmental protection with economic growth.

It is about to make a decision on an application by Taseko Mines Ltd. to mine a copper-gold find near Fish Lake in British Columbia’s Chilcotin district.

The good news is the mine would create several hundred jobs over the next 20 years. The bad news is the company’s plan to use Fish Lake as a toxic dump for mine wastes. The company promises to dig another, smaller lake nearby for the trout that would be doomed by the mine’s operation. The story’s here. 

I’ve been enchanted by the Chilcotin district most of my life. I first learned about this magnificent inland empire when I read Rich Hobson’s book, Grass Beyond the Mountains. It chronicles the ranch life in this B.C. outback of Hobson, son of a wealthy American, and his sidekick Pan Phillips. They found their way up to the Chilcotin, which is part of the Cariboo region, in the 1930s.

That book set off a series of titles, some by Hobson and some by his daughter, as well as by other writers. The latest volume, Beyond the Chilcotin by Pan’s youngest daughter Diane, is coming out in paperback this month.

The proposed mine at Fish Lake is bitterly opposed by the Tsilhqot’in Nation Government, representing six bands in the area. Their opposition – they’re ready to “fight to the death” to prevent the mine — recalls the blood-spilling of the Chilcotin War back in 1864.

That was fought over a roughshod attempt by whites to push a road through native lands to feed the gold mines of the Cariboo.

The B.C. government approved the Taseko mine project after carrying out an environmental assessment.

A federal panel has since found that the mine would have “significant adverse environmental effects” on the area. Hence, a decision has been handed over to the Harper cabinet.

I have fished Fish Lake and I know of no other place where the sublime beauty of nature is so grand. I don’t want to see it corrupted with mine tailings.

But I also see the benefit of the jobs that would be created, many of which would hopefully go to First Nations residents.

So instead of building a new lake for the fish, why not a new lake for the mine tailings?

Unless some innovative thinking is done here, there’s going to be big trouble in the Chilcotin before the snow flies.

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