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NEWS: Federal panel puts Fish Lake mine review on hold over ‘major deficiency’ in Taseko’s application

Chief Marilyn Baptiste speaks at our Sinking the Harper Agenda conference in Nanaimo, October 2012.

Chief Marilyn Baptiste speaks at our ‘Sinking the Harper Agenda’ conference in Nanaimo, October 2012.

The Vancouver Sun reports, “A federal review panel has put the brakes on Taseko’s planned New Prosperity (open-pit gold-copper) mine in the Chilcotin, citing a ‘major deficiency’ in the company’s environmental-impact statement. Panel chair Bill Ross, in a letter to Taseko posted on the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency website, writes that the issue concerns the company’s approach to the assessment of cumulative environmental impacts.”

“The panel says it wants to know the impact of the proposed mine ‘in combination with other past, present or reasonably foreseeable projects or activities’, and makes special note of past logging practices. …The panel states that Taseko, in determining when a cumulative-effects assessment is required, relies, in part, on the following condition being met: ‘There is a reasonable expectation that the project’s contribution to cumulative environmental effects will affect the viability or sustainability of the resource or value.’ The panel believes that by applying that condition, valued ecosystem components or key indicators for which ‘a cumulative-effects assessment is required by the Act have been excluded.'”

“Marilyn Baptiste, chief of Xeni Gwet’in, a Tsilhqot’in band, said in response Wednesday that the panel’s comments support her own views about Taseko’s latest statement. ‘I’m not surprised’, she said. ‘There are deficiencies and I can’t begin to imagine the magnitude of them. This company doesn’t seem to be able to … carry out its responsibilities for this project.'”

The report adds, “The company’s original plan, which would have drained Fish Lake and stored waste rock and dirt on the dry lake bed, was rejected in 2010 by a federal panel due to ‘significant adverse environmental effects on fish and fish habitat, on navigation, on the current use of lands and resources for traditional purposes by first nations,’ as well as adverse cumulative effects on grizzly bears in the south Chilcotin. …Under the new plan, waste rock and dirt will now be trucked and stored north of Fish Lake. A tailings pond, which will store potentially acid-producing mill waste, will be moved upstream two kilometres from Fish Lake. The new plan will alter the watershed’s natural drainage. The tailings pond will limit water flow into Fish Lake, and the outflow of the lake will be cut off by the open mine pit downstream.”

“(Panel chair Ross) said Taseko must now provide information related to the identified deficiency along with other pending requests before the panel can determine if the environmental-impact statement is ‘sufficient to proceed to public hearing’.” The Council of Canadians-Williams Lake chapter has been accepted to present at that public hearing should Taseko’s application proceed to that stage, http://canadians.org/blog/?p=17174. The Council of Canadians campaign web-page in defence of Teztan Biny/ Fish Lake can be read at http://canadians.org/water/issues/TIAs/teztan-biny.html.