Federal Court Halts Red Chris Mine: MiningWatch Canada Wins Precedent Setting Decision

Following a Federal Court decision on September 25, 2007, the future of the proposed Red Chris mine - a huge acid-generating mine proposed for north-western British Columbia – has been put in doubt.

The precedent-setting decision upholds the fundamental right of Canadians to be consulted during the environmental assessment of large mines on the comprehensive study list. The Court found that the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act enshrined this right when it was amended in October 2003.

As of December 2007, the case has been appealed by the federal government and the mining company.

Representing MiningWatch Canada, Ecojustice lawyers (formerly Sierra Legal) filed the lawsuit in June 2006.

In a precedent-setting decision, Mr. Justice Luc Martineau condemns the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and Natural Resources Canada for unlawfully evading a comprehensive study environmental assessment of the Red Chris Mine, and unlawfully preventing the public from participating in the federal assessment.

In his decision, Mr. Justice Martineau orders that the Red Chris mine be denied any federal permits on the basis of unlawful environmental assessment.

In his reasons, Mr. Justice Martineau said that DFO's re-scoping of the project from a Comprehensive Study to a screening in December of 2004 "has all the characteristics of a capricious and arbitrary decision which was taken for an improper purpose."

The proposed Red Chris mine would turn the headwaters of three creeks in northwestern BC into a tailings dump, destroying fish habitat and risking contamination of the Stikine watershed. The mine will have two huge open pits and will leave behind approximately 183 million tonnes of toxic tailings and 307 million tonnes of waste rock, which will likely need to be treated for acid mine drainage for over 200 years.

The mine is located in the Klappan area of Tahltan traditional territory in an area that has come to be known as the Sacred Headwaters.

For a number of years now, elders and other members of the Iskut First Nation in northern British Columbia have been trying to prevent development in a portion of their traditional territory known to them as the Sacred Headwaters. It is a beautiful area at the headwaters of the Stikine, Nass, and Skeena Rivers in northwestern British Columbia.

For more information, contact

Lara Tessaro, Ecojustice Canada 604-685-5618 ext 245
Joan Kuyek, MiningWatch Canada 613-569-3439

The court decision is available as a PDF file below.