Taseko’s Federal Review Could Take A Year
By Greg Klein
November 7 was the deadline, yet supporters and opponents alike were kept on tenterhooks as the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency waited until late afternoon Pacific Time to release its New Prosperity decision. Now both sides face up to a year of further uncertainty while the controversial gold-copper mine proposed by Taseko Mines Ltd TSX:TKO for south-central BC works its way through another review.
This marks the third review since the process started in 1993 and the second since November 2010, when a CEAA panel’s report prompted the federal cabinet to reject Taseko’s last proposal, which was called Prosperity. The review largely focused on 118-hectare Fish Lake, which Taseko initially planned for a tailings dump. Taseko’s revised proposal, New Prosperity, moves the tailings two kilometres upstream.
Supporters say the $1.1-billion open-pit mine would bring 71,000 direct and indirect jobs, $4.3 billion in federal taxes, $5.52 billion in provincial taxes and a big chunk of the provincial mineral tax for aboriginals.
“That’s the value of mining, and it’s sure exemplified in this project,” says Brian Battison, Taseko’s VP of Corporate Affairs. “If there’s a time when these opportunities are needed, it’s now.”
Opponents talk of environmental damage, cultural threats and even a nation-wide breakdown of relations between natives and the mining industry. They say the new proposal still threatens Fish Lake.
“Obviously [the lake is] critically important,” Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs president Stewart Phillip tells ResourceClips.com. “I’ve been involved in indigenous issues for 37 years or thereabouts, and I’ve never witnessed an issue or project that has attracted such widespread opposition. It’s not just aboriginal opposition—there’s environmental, conservation, human rights, multi-faith community, the general public.”
The last CEAA panel described Fish Lake as “a place of spiritual power and healing for the Tsilhqot’in.” In a media release from the 3,101-member Tsilhqot’in Nation, Chief Joe Alphonse called on the CEAA to re-appoint the same three panel members.
Although the CEAA report found few significant adverse effects besides the Fish Creek watershed, it did focus strongly on issues like established rights, potential rights and potential title, stating that these issues were part of its terms of reference. The new panel’s environmental guidelines and terms of reference haven’t been announced yet. “Both of those documents will be made available for public comment prior to being finalized,” the agency states.
I’ve been involved in indigenous issues for 37 years or thereabouts, and I’ve never witnessed an issue or project that has attracted such widespread opposition —Stewart Phillip
In a letter to the Northern Miner, Taseko President/CEO Russell Hallbauer pointed out that “New Prosperity is located on Crown Land owned by the people of BC.” He also stated that Taseko had paid nearly $1 million to local native bands “to assist them with capacity issues. We spent a further $750,000 to identify any archaeological sites in the immediate mine-site area, an amount far in excess of what was required of us under the law but which we agreed to do at their request and to demonstrate our efforts to be responsive to their interests.”
Tsilhqot’in leaders have told ResourceClips.com that they refuse to talk with Taseko.
Phillip says he stands by his September UBCIC statement that approval of New Prosperity “will trigger a province-wide and nation-wide backlash that will severely jeopardize relationships between First Nations and the mining industry for years to come.” Phillip reiterated the UBCIC’s support for the Tsilhqot’in but declined to be specific about his group’s plans.
One day prior to the CEAA announcement, hundreds of marchers, drawing people from Occupy Vancouver and including masked protestors, paraded through downtown Vancouver to denounce “mining on native land.”