There was an editorial in the Williams Lake Tribune last week by Walt Cobb, a former Liberal MLA and once Mayor of Williams Lake, B.C. It was like reading ancient history from a time when we did not know any better. It was in support of the proposed Prosperity Mine now under consideration in the Williams Lake area.
Cobb is taking exception to the fact that the Sierra Club, Council of Canadians and other groups are preparing to make a presence at hearing on the mine to oppose it. And, he is dragging out the tired old jobs versus environment argument, trying to scare people into supporting a mine that looks like it might be a disaster.
In the editorial Cobb says that the Prosperity Mine would “help us weather the storm in the forest industry and give those who still need jobs some hope to be able to stay in the area.” And, of the environmentalists he said “They are poising themselves against those who need to feed their families and prefer to do it by having a job here in Williams Lake.”
Cobb should bring his head into the 21st century along with the rest of his body. The storm in the forest industry isn’t going away. It may blow softer or harder from time to time, but a history of over exploitation and bad practices have caught up with us, and we will be dealing with them for a long time. A burst of mining jobs for awhile will not tide us over.
He should also stop dragging up the jobs boogeyman to try and scare people into acting against their own best long term interests. What he is arguing for in reality is a few quick bucks now, and disaster for future generations. In effect, he is telling people to come out and support harming their descendants.
The Prosperity Mine is a gold and copper mining project of Taseko Mines Ltd. of Vancouver, B.C. The site is located about 125 miles southwest of Williams Lake at Fish Lake. The real fly in the ointment is that the proposal calls for turning Fish Lake into a tailings pond, effectively killing it in exchange for about 20 years of mining activity.
Fish Lake is home to about 85,000 rainbow trout, and is a part of the Fraser River system. It is within the traditional territory of the Tsilhqot’in First Nation and provides them with a food source, as well as contributing to the ecological web that supports the wildlife and flora around it. Toxic waste leaking from the lake, once it becomes a dump for the mine, will work its way into the Fraser and disrupt the salmon fishery in that river and its tributaries. A salmon fishery already under considerable stress.
In exchange for employment for a few years this project will eat into an already dangerously imperilled global ecosystem, threatening the long-term welfare of those who depend on the lake and the land around it, and on those who depend on the Fraser River fishery. It will also contribute to economic growth in a world already grown beyond its sustainable limits, helping to imperil the future of all of our grandchildren and their grandchildren.
For centuries society has treated its ecosystem as expendable, believing the lie that there is always more somewhere. It appeared true when there were so few of us and so much to go around. But there is no always more, everything has limits and a couple of decades ago we reached them on this planet, but failed to change our ways. The impending Fish Lake disaster is yet one more example.
Everyone needs to be supported, but convincing people to destroy the future of their descendants to get that support is not a sensible way to do it. The same material that we need for life is there no matter what we do. What we need is a better way to distribute it, and distribute it more fairly.
As the Tsilhqot’in say, the land is vital to them and they want it pure for their survival. That is the rational view here, not Walt Cobb’s outdated thinking.
Jerry West is the publisher, editor and janitor for The Record, an independent, progressive regional publication for Nootka Sound and Canada’s West Coast.