The Federal Environmental Assessment Panel examining the proposed Prosperity Gold-Copper Mine released its findings today. The open pit mine, proposed by Taseko Mines Ltd. would exploit a large but low-grade gold-copper deposit in the territory of the Tsilhqot’in Nation, 125 km west of Williams Lake BC. Like the provincial environmental assessment process, the federal Panel found the project would have significant negative environmental effects. The federal process was coordinated with the province but included extensive public hearings, participant funding and substantial input from affected First Nations.
The Panel noted significant negative effects on fish and fish habitat and grizzly bears, and noted that water treatment well into the future could create a significant burden on the province.
While the provincial process concluded that consultation with First Nations had been adequate the federal Panel has concluded that the project would infringe on aboriginal rights and that they could not find a way to accommodate for the losses that would be suffered by the nations if the project were approved.
The province also concluded that the significant negative effects could be justified based on economic factors and proposed mitigation measures. The Panel did not have a mandate to make such a determination but did provide information to inform the federal ministers and the Cabinet about such a decision. The information provided will make it very hard to find that the project can be justified.
“With the additional information, that was not available to the province and given the Panel’s own analysis, the Cabinet should have a relatively easy decision to find that the project is not justifiable.” commented Ramsey Hart of MiningWatch Canada. “Such a decision would be in line with the federal government’s acceptance of the Kemess North panel report, and would send a clear message to industry that projects like these are not the path it should be taking.” The Kemess North proposal was denied federal and provincial environmental assessment approval through a joint panel review in 2007 and shares many similarities to the Prosperity proposal including the destruction of lakes and opposition from First Nations.
MiningWatch Canada was very involved with the assessment process engaging expert reviewers and participating in the public hearings held in Williams Lake. These reviews and submissions focussed on the proposed fish habitat compensation plan, socio economic impacts of the project and the impacts the project would have on relationships with the affected First Nations
The Panel agreed with MiningWatch and others that impacts on fish habitat were significant and that the proposed habitat compensation plan was unlikely to succeed. The Executive Summary of the Panel’s 300 page report states that:
“...the success of re-creating a lake with adjacent spawning and rearing channels is questionable as no information was presented regarding the successful replacement of an entire lake and stream system as a self-sustaining ecosystem. It is unlikely that the plan would meet the requirements for the establishment of a self-sustaining rainbow trout population, or a replacement First Nation food fishery.”
Regarding socio-economic effects, the Panel found that the project could have significant adverse effects on local resource uses and tourism operations but that regionally the adverse effects would not be significant. Unfortunately the Panel did not evaluate the proponent’s assertions of economic benefits to the community and region, and did not consider information from MiningWatch and others such as economist Dr. Marvin Shaffer of Simon Fraser University that questioned the net benefits of the project.
The report refers to the support the project received in Williams Lake, however, much of this support was based on an acceptance of Taseko’s statements that there would be no significant environmental effects. Given the unequivocal findings of the Panel regarding significant adverse effects, it is possible that previous support for the project will decline. It is also important to note that substantial opposition to the project was demonstrated with many of residents of Williams Lake who spoke against the project during the hearings.
MiningWatch staff will be conducting further analysis of the report. We will also work the Tŝilhqot’in and Secwempec Nations and other NGOs to ensure that the lobbying efforts of the proponent do not sway the Cabinet into finding the project is justified despite the long list of significant adverse effects.
For further information contact Ramsey Hart at (613) 614-9937 or ramsey(at)miningwatch.ca
MiningWatch’s submissions and presentations to the Panel can be found here.
The Panel’s full report can be found at: www.prosperityreviewpanel.com.