Taseko's New Prosperity Project Fails on Environment, Human Rights, and Economics

(Williams Lake) Taseko Mines Ltd.’s claims that it can operate the controversial New Prosperity Gold-Copper Project without significant adverse effects are a fantasy, according to MiningWatch Canada. Ramsey Hart will present the organisation’s findings to the federal review panel at its final public hearing session today in Williams Lake.

According to MiningWatch, the three member panel responsible for making recommendations to the federal government ought to reject Taseko claims that it has addressed a list of problems identified by a previous review panel, and that the project can be justified by its economic impacts.

The previous federal panel report was “scathing” and resulted in the project being rejected by then Environment Minister Jim Prentice. Following the rejection, Taseko resubmitted an already-discredited alternative mine plan, claiming it had found ways to address the numerous fundamental problems of its initial proposal.

At the centre of the controversy is Teztan Biny or Fish Lake, a mountain lake home to a healthy and eminently catchable population of rainbow trout. It is an area of cultural importance to the Tŝilhqot’in people who have fought on many fronts to protect their land, including one of Canada’s most advanced legal rights and title cases, to be heard in the Supreme Court of Canada this fall. Taseko had proposed to drain the lake in the earlier version of the project but is now claiming to have found a way to save it by relocating mine infrastructure. The lake would remain sandwiched between a massive mine waste dump and the mine’s open pit.

“Taseko’s claims to be able to save Fish Lake have been refuted by numerous expert reviewers during the hearings,” said MiningWatch spokesperson Ramsey Hart. “They don’t have good information to base their plans on and the proposal is an engineering fantasy that would almost certainly need to have pumps, pipelines, and treatment systems operating at the site forever.”

In addition to concerns over Fish Lake, two Secwepemc communities are concerned about the proposed transmission line to supply the mine with electricity. The previous panel agreed the transmission line was a problem for wildlife and for Secwepemc rights and title. Taseko has not proposed any new mitigation measures to address Secwepemc concerns.

According to Taseko, the risks of the project can be addressed with engineering, more study and “adaptive management.” The company says that any residual risks can be justified by the project’s economic impact. A technical submission by MiningWatch argued that the company’s economic claims are exaggerated as they do not factor in a number of costs or consider the “net effect” of the project on the labour market and economy. The report was written by economist Dr. Marvin Shaffer.

Following the final day of hearings, the panel will have seventy days to submit its report to the federal government, which will then decide whether to approve the project and if so, under what conditions.

Contact: Ramsey Hart, MiningWatch Canada (613) 298-4745