In February, an independent committee awarded MiningWatch $37,200 to participate in the environmental assessment of Taseko Mines’ proposed Prosperity Gold and Copper Mine. The project area is 125 km south west of Williams Lake BC and within the traditional territory of the Xeni Gwet’in, members of the Tsilhqot’in National Government (TNG).
MiningWatch was encouraged to become involved in the EA by the Xeni Gwet’in and TNG and in the fall of 2008 Canada Program Coordinator, Ramsey Hart met with community leaders and the TNG Mining Coordinator and visited the proposed project area.
One of the main sources of controversy is the proposed draining of Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) to make way for the open pit, a waste rock disposal area and ore storage. The lake has cultural significance to the Xeni Gwet’in. The proponent’s Environmental Impact Statement states that the lake and area around the lake has been in continual use for 7,500 years. Most of the 79 sites identified during an archaeological inventory are along the lakeshore and show uses such as “hunting, fishing, plant gathering and processing”. The lake is home to an abundant trout population and is in a remarkably scenic location. Destruction of the lake will require a regulatory amendment to add it to Schedule 2 of the Metal Mining Effluent Regulations under the Fisheries Act.
Unsatisfied with the consultation and accommodation that has occurred during the planning stages of the project, the Xeni Gwet’in and TNG are undertaking legal action to have their right to fish respected by BC law.
One aspect of MiningWatch’s contribution to the EA was to critique the EIS's findings that the project will have no significant effects on the fishery and will actually result in a net improvement through the habitat compensation plan. This work was undertaken in collaboration with fisheries biologist David Levy who previously worked with MiningWatch on the Kemess North mine environmental assessment. To compensate for lost fish habitat, Taseko is proposing to construct a reservoir upstream of the pit and tailings impoundment. Due to the physical configuration of the reservoir, Dr. Levy has concluded it would have to be four to five times larger than planned to provide adequate compensation. Of course, even if this were possible it would only address the technical replacement of fish habitat and would not do anything to address the irreparable loss of cultural values associated with Teztan Biny.
The other main component of our contribution to the assessment has been to critique the proponent’s socio-economic evaluation of the projects and the predicted benefits for surrounding region of Williams Lake and the province. Former National Director Joan Kuyek worked with MiningWatch staff to complete the socio-economic review.
Visit the MiningWatch website for more on this project and to read our submissions to the EA Panel at http://miningwatch.ca/en/proposed-prosperity-gold-copper-mine.