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NEWS: Taseko says it now has the $300 million to save Fish Lake

CBC reports that, “Owners of B.C.’s controversial Prosperity mine have launched a second attempt to get the $1-billion project approved. The gold and copper mine near Williams Lake was opposed by First Nations and ultimately failed an environmental assessment… On Monday, Taseko Mines Ltd., of Vancouver, submitted a revised plan for the mine that addressed the major concern of both natives and officials — the proposed destruction of Fish Lake.”

“The original proposal called for the lake to be drained and turned into a dump for toxic tailings from the mine, poisoning much of the watershed in which it lies. …The company said there was no alternative. Taseko’s new proposal now would preserve Fish Lake and all its aquatic life, the company said. What’s changed is the price of gold and copper, making it possible to pay for a more expensive solution to the waste problem, said CEO Russell Hallbauer.”

This confirms a January 25 report in the Williams Lake Tribune that Taseko was intending to submit a revised application. In that article, “(Taseko vice-president Brian Battison said,) ‘There were always alternate ways to build the project that would mean no impact to Fish Lake but none of them were economic.’ (But they can do it now) due to the current (significantly higher) price of copper and gold on the world market…”

In other words, a simple fluctuation in the price of a commodity and the resulting profit margin means that Taseko can propose the mine again, this time without destroying Fish Lake. This begs the question, what if Fish Lake had been permanently destroyed – as planned – only to see the price of copper and gold change six months later rendering that destruction unnecessary?

The Globe and Mail reports today that, “The company said in a statement it can now save Fish Lake… Such an effort would add $300-million to the…project.” This brings us to the planned destruction of Sandy Pond in Newfoundland. Using Sandy Pond as a tailings pond is said to cost $62 million; while a tailings containment area that would hold the mine’s waste separate from the water would cost $490 million. What if the price of nickel were to increase enough to cover the $428 million gap or even just significantly reduce it? Or what if the cost of protecting the lake were considered the cost of business for a corporation with billions in profits like Vale, rather than the current approach of a public subsidy (the giving away of a lake to a corporation for its private use) granted by the federal government?

It also needs to be highlighted that David Williams, president of the Friends of the Nemaiah Valley, recently wrote in the Williams Lake Tribune that, “It is no surprise that the Tsilhqot’in National Government, and many others, too, continue to oppose the very idea of Prosperity mine, whether it destroys Teztan Biny or not. However such a mine were to be developed, the impacts on the local ecosystem and Tsihqot’in culture and society would be devastating. …The central fact that continues to elude government, the corporate sector, and especially the mainstream media, is that aboriginal rights and the sovereignty issue that underlies them must be recognized. …If the mine, indeed any resource extraction, were to proceed without prior consultation and accommodation, and we believe even permission, from the First Nation on whose lands the resources are situated, an illegal act will have occurred.”

The CBC article today notes that, “There is no timeline for environmental approval (from the Harper government), but Taseko said it hoped the environmental assessment would only have to review the aspects of the proposal that have changed.”

The news reports are at http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2011/02/21/bc-prosperity-mine-new-proposal.html and http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/british-columbia/harper-stands-firm-on-rejecting-proposed-bc-mine-project/article1915401/. The campaign blog noting the Williams Lake Tribune article is at http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=6088. David Williams’ letter is at http://www.bclocalnews.com/bc_cariboo/williamslaketribune/opinion/letters/114695269.html.