Rejection of New Prosperity Project Provides Clarity to Industry: Lake Destroying Projects and Projects Without Indigenous Consent Need Not Apply

(Ottawa) MiningWatch Canada welcomes yesterday’s announcement by Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq that the federal government will not approve Taseko Mines’ New Prosperity gold-copper project. The project, located in south-central British Columbia, was a modification of a previously rejected application.

The original federal environmental review identified numerous “significant adverse effects” that were acknowledged by then-Environment Minister Jim Prentice. When the federal government rejected the project at the time, it indicated Taseko could submit another application if it addressed the numerous adverse effects. The findings of the second review panel clearly indicated that the company had failed to do this, and again the government has accepted those findings and chosen not to have other considerations, such as economic impact, outweigh the environmental effects. Yesterday’s announcement did not include an invitation to reapply.

The area that would have been directly affected by the mine is in the heart of the traditional territory of the Tŝilhqot’in Nation and includes two lakes with abundant trout populations, homesteads, grazing areas, and important grizzly bear habitat. The Tŝilhqot’in have been strongly opposed to the project through both review processes. Communities of the Secwepemc Nation also opposed the project. The mine’s electrical transmission line would have crossed Secwepemc territory. Local indigenous opposition was backed by regional and national First Nations organizations including the Assembly of First Nations (AFN).

“This second rejection should send a clear signal to the mining industry that aggressively pushing mining projects against the will of indigenous peoples is a losing gamble,” commented Ramsey Hart, Canada Program Coordinator with MiningWatch Canada.

Much of the opposition to the project was related to the impacts on Teztan Biny (Fish Lake), which Taseko originally planned to drain. In its revised application, the company claimed to have found a way to save the lake while developing the mine, including recirculating the lake’s outflow to its inlet. Fisheries specialists that reviewed the plan had little faith it could work.

“Indigenous and non-indigenous Canadians alike do not want to see valued aquatic ecosystems sacrificed for the short term-benefit of mining projects. This decision is in line with Canadians’ expectations and the importance we place on our lakes,” added Hart.

Taseko tried and failed to get economics to trump the project’s environmental risks. MiningWatch and others questioned Taseko’s economic claims, including the numbers of jobs the project would create and the net benefits of the project. In contrast to the company’s hyperbolic claims, the mayor of Williams Lake described the economic impact of the mine on her community as merely “additive”.

Taseko has enjoyed support from the B.C. Liberal government despite a pending Environment Ministry review of Taseko’s revised plan. In 2010 MiningWatch called into question the objectivity of BC Liberal support given considerable financial contributions the company  made to the party. In January the Vancouver Sun provided an updated analysis of Taseko’s political contributions, which totalled $110,000 since 2009, from both Taseko and its CEO, Russ Hallbauer.

In response to the review panel’s report, Taseko launched a judicial review of the panel’s findings and the review process, claiming the panel erred in its conclusions and accusing the panel of procedural unfairness. From MiningWatch’s assessment, the claims are without merit and stand to simply waste the time and resources of the company, the courts, the federal government, the Tŝilhqot’in National Government, and other possible interveners.

“We wonder why Taseko’s investors would allow the company to continue spending money on a project which is now twice dead,” questioned Hart. MiningWatch urges the company to drop the suit and move on to other prospects.

Ramsey Hart, 613-298-4745