Stopping the mine – Xeni Gwet’in leader wins Environment Prize

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Stopping the mine – Xeni Gwet’in leader wins Environment Prize

Marilyn Baptiste of British Columbia, Canada has won the Goldman Environmental Prize. She stopped the Taseko Mines gold mining project.


Marilyn Baptiste, leader of the Xeni Gwet’in. © Goldman Environmental Prize

We are very happy that Marilyn Baptiste, leader of the Xeni Gwet’in has won the Goldman Environmental Prize. This is the biggest prize in the world for environmental activism. She stopped Taseko Mines’ Prosperity gold and copper mine.

Marilyn led the successful campaign to protect her community from the Prosperity mine. The mining project would be the worst kind of mining. It would destroy the beautiful First Nations’ lands and Fish Lake (Teztan Biny), full of fish.

If this plan had succeeded, many other similar mines would have been planned. The Canadian government has a history of giving more importance to mining than indigenous rights and environmental protection.

Industry, governments and local municipalities all supported the Prosperity plan. So it was a surprise to many people that it was not allowed. This shows the power of community protest.

Marilyn Baptiste led the fight. She had just been chosen as Chief of the Xeni Gwet’in. She led the environmental, cultural and economic studies to take to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency’s review group.

With all this information, Chief Baptiste then led a community fight. Many people: experts, elders, chiefs, local environmentalists and entrepreneurs gave strong evidence that asked serious questions about the things the supporters of the mine were saying.

Marilyn went to almost all the 60 days of presentations. She made sure most of the witnesses were from the area that would be affected and spoke against the project.

Marilyn even led a physical blockade of the mine site – they stood in the middle of the road to stop mining equipment coming into the area.

Her first victory was in 2010. The federal government agreed that the project would have a bad effect on the environment and on the rights of the First Nations. Jim Prentice, who was then federal environment minister, said the report was the worst he had ever read. So they said no to the plans for the mine.

But Taseko Mines changed their plans and tried again. And again, Marilyn Baptiste and the Xeni Gwet’in tried to stop the mine.

Finally, in October 2013, an environmental assessment group decided that the proposed mine would have very serious effects on the culture and traditions of the Tsilhqot’in people (which include the Xeni Gwet’in). The group also said there would be many serious environmental effects on the lakes, rivers and wetlands of the area.

On February 26, 2014, the community won. The federal government said no to the proposal for the mine a second time. Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq said the mine would have too many bad effects on the environment.

Marilyn Baptiste has a lot of support from First Nations across Canada. She is in the news a lot and has had a lot of courage to fight against the mine for many years. All this helped the rejection of the Prosperity mine – and the victory of First Nations’ rights over dirty mining.

Watch this to see the area and hear the story:

NOW READ THE ORIGINAL: (This article has been simplified so the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed).