Premier urged to give northwest mining a boost

IF PREMIER Clark wants to help mining in B.C., she should press for federal approval of the Northwest Transmission Line instead of the proposed Prosperity mine near Williams Lake, says Skeena – Bulkley NDP MP Nathan Cullen.

Cullen said the Prosperity proposal has drawn heavy criticism from First Nations groups and environmentalists.

And here we have a project that has broad political support,” said Cullen of the power line.

Its construction is expected to lead to the development of at least one and potentially two mines up Hwy 37 North.

The province gave environmental approval for the transmission line the end of January but there's no decision made yet by the federal government.

BC Hydro, which would build the line, has a start date of April staked out in order to finish by January 2013.

Cullen's comments follow statements from Clark that she had brought up approval of the Prosperity mine in a conversation with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The province gave its environmental blessing to the Prosperity mine last year, which include a plan to drain a lake that would serve as a tailings pond.

But the federal government rejected the proposal, saying it would create too much environmental damage.

Mine property owners Taseko Mines has since submitted a new plan that does not involve draining a lake but it has yet to meet with First Nations acceptance.

Skeena NDP MLA Robin Austin said Clark is pressing for Prosperity because she thinks the federal government made the wrong decision.

But he wasn't quite sure Clark has a role to play in urging federal approval for the power line.

There's a process in place and that process should work. Politicians should stay out of it,” said Austin.

He said federal environmental officials look at different aspects of a project than do provincials, a situation which could take them longer.

But he did add that Clark should speak with BC Hydro to ensure it meets obligations to consult with First Nations groups when the power line goes through their traditional territory.

BC Hydro should make sure it reaches agreements with First Nations,” said Austin.

He felt that lack of reaching agreements with all First Nations groups affected by the power line may factor into the federal government's thinking about giving its approval of the line.

But both Austin and Cullen did not think approval would be unduly held up if a federal election was called as early as this week.

“Things can still happen and governments still function,” said Cullen of the time during an election period when politicians are focussed on running for office.

“I don't get a sense of panic either in folks I've spoken with,” he said of the prospect of a federal election being called very shortly.

Austin said federal officials have a set of procedures they are following.

“That work will continue during an election campaign,” he said.

Both Cullen and Austin also said the election period of approximately five weeks was not overly long as to delay approval later this spring.





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