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Taseko lays off at least 40 workers at its Gibraltar Mine in B.C.'s central Interior

·3 min read
The Gibraltar Mine near Williams Lake, B.C., is laying off at least 40 employees next week which its owner Taseko Mines Ltd. says is a result of delays in provincial permits.  (Taseko Mines Limited - image credit)
The Gibraltar Mine near Williams Lake, B.C., is laying off at least 40 employees next week which its owner Taseko Mines Ltd. says is a result of delays in provincial permits. (Taseko Mines Limited - image credit)

A major mining company near Williams Lake, B.C., is laying off dozens of workers and blaming the move on provincial red tape.

Taseko Mines Limited — a Vancouver-based firm that owns the Gibraltar Mine located about 61 kilometres north of the Cariboo city — announced this week that at least 40 Gibraltar employees, including truck drivers and drill operators, will be laid off effective next Tuesday.

Brian Battison, Taseko's vice-president of corporate affairs, says Gibraltar has no option but to lay off staff because it has failed to get permission from the B.C. government to restart operation of an existing pit that could have kept workers occupied.

According to Taseko's website, the copper-molybdenum mine employs about 700 people, most of whom live in Williams Lake, Quesnel and 100 Mile House in B.C.'s central Interior. The company says Gibraltar paid workers $121 million of wages in 2019.

Lengthy consultation

Battison says Gibraltar notified the Ministry of Energy and Mines last year of its intention to restart its East Pit and subsequently filed a Notice of Departure, a paperwork required by the province whenever a company needs to change the mining activities it has planned.

The ministry required an amendment to the company's mining permit for the pit to be restarted, he says, and that in turn required consultation with local communities.

But Battison says no progress has happened since the consultation process began last May.

"When deadlines are set by governments, when certain things are supposed to take place, those guidelines are never adhered to by governments. They extend [deadlines], but they seem to put off making a decision," he told CBC reporter Jenifer Norwell.

"As a result, working people needlessly pay the price for government inaction," he added. "It's frustrating."

Engaging stakeholders

In a written statement to CBC News, Energy and Mines Minister Bruce Ralston says the province is still consulting with the Tsilhqot'in Nation and other stakeholders on Gibraltar's mining permit amendment. He says the consultation process has been extended to May 7.

"Our government's priority is to ensure all voices are heard during the consultation process and that projects are processed in a fair and timely manner," Ralston wrote.

In 2019, members of the Tsilhqot'in Nation launched legal action and roadlock against Taseko's mining activities around Teẑtan Biny, about 183 kilometres southwest of Williams Lake, which they consider a sacred lake.

Williams Lake Mayor Walt Cobb says the consultation process required by the province for amending Gibraltar Mine's permit is unnecessary.
Williams Lake Mayor Walt Cobb says the consultation process required by the province for amending Gibraltar Mine's permit is unnecessary.(Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Williams Lake Mayor Walt Cobb says the consultation process for Gibraltar's mine pit and the ensuing layoffs could have been prevented.

"It's always the red tape and the bureaucracy that slows things down," Cobb said Thursday to Shelley Joyce, the host of CBC's Daybreak Kamloops. "The [provincial] government is spending millions of dollars trying to recover the economy, and then we turn around and let that paperwork lapse and cause layoffs."

"It doesn't make sense," the mayor said.