VANCOUVER—First Nations that have fought for years to protect sacred land from the threat of mining have asked a United Nations human rights monitor to investigate an “imminent violation” of their rights.

The Tsilhqot’in Nation, which represents six communities, made its request in the midst of a standoff with Taseko Mines over the company’s plan to undertake mine exploration work near Teztan Biny (Fish Lake).

In a statement, Chief Joe Alphonse, the Tribal Chair of the Tsilhqot’in National Government, said, “It is apparent that our Aboriginal rights and jurisdiction aren’t being taken seriously and, therefore, we are taking this matter to the United Nations in an effort to get our voices heard and wake up both B.C. and Canada.”

Though Taseko’s plans for a mine near Teztan Biny have been rejected twice by the federal government, the company was issued a provincial permit in July 2017 by the outgoing Liberal government to undertake further exploratory drilling work in the area.

Taseko spokesperson Brian Battison previously told Star Vancouver that the New Prosperity project, as it is now known, “enjoys widespread support across the region.”

He said the planned drilling project is similar to other exploratory work that’s been done in the area over the past two decades.

As of its 2016 application, the company’s exploratory drilling program included plans for 122 drill sites, 48 kilometres of excavated trails, 20 kilometres of cut lines, a 50-person camp with 11 mobile trailers, storage of 10,000 litres of fuel and 367 trenches or test pits, according to court documents.

The Tsilhqot’in challenged the provincial permit in court, which delayed the work, but the nation ultimately lost the case.

But the battle’s not over yet.

The company and the Tsilhqot’in are set to face off in court again later this month with both sides asking for injunctions against the other. The Tsilhqot’in want the company’s work postponed until the courts can rule on a larger case that argues the work would infringe on the nation’s Indigenous rights.

Taseko, meanwhile, wants the court to restrict members of the Tsilhqot’in Nation and others from blocking the company’s access to the work site after a July 2 blockade forced Taseko trucks to turn away.

Now the Tsilhqot’in are trying to draw international attention to the fight.

Earlier this month, the nation made a submission to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Victoria Tauli Corpuz, who is tasked with promoting the protection of Indigenous human rights around the world.

In its submission, the Tsilhqot’in National Government asked the special rapporteur to “affirm that no exploratory activity of mine development can or should occur in the Teztan Biny Region without the free, prior informed consent of the Tsilhqot’in peoples.”

The nation invited Corpuz to visit the area — which it notes is “an area of profound cultural and spiritual importance to the entire Tsilhqot’in Nation” — as part of a broader investigation into its allegations.