No Prosperity for Taseko? Report should kill mine, but company keeps digging

No Prosperity for Taseko? Report should kill mine; company digs in

No Prosperity for Taseko? Report should kill mine, but company keeps digging
Xeni Gwet’in Chief Roger William is celebrating a scathing new report on a proposed mine in his territory

A second, damning federal report on a proposed mine west of Williams Lake, BC, amid Tsilhqot’in First Nation territory, should sound the gold and copper mine’s death knell.

The report, which follows five weeks of hearings earlier this year into an updated version of the mine proposal, states:

[quote]…the New Prosperity Project would result in several significant adverse environmental effects; the key ones being effects on water quality in Fish Lake (Teztan Biny), on fish and fish habitat in Fish Lake, on current use of lands and resources for traditional purposes by certain Aboriginal groups, and on their cultural heritage.[/quote]

Strong words from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, which suggest the “New” Prosperity Mine proposal did little to address the reasons its predecessor was rejected by Federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice in 2010.

The Panel also foresaw a “significant adverse cumulative effect on the South Chilcotin grizzly bear population, unless necessary cumulative effects mitigation measures are effectively implemented.”

The report will now be referred to the federal Cabinet for the final decision.

Taseko vows to keep digging

While the Panel’s findings were celebrated as a “victory” by local First Nations – who came out 100% against the project throughout the recent hearings – the company downplayed the report’s impact and vowed to press on with the project.

Taseko Vice President and project spokesperson Brian Battinson told the CBC this morning, “The report, in many respects, agrees with our assessment – the risks are modest and the social and economic benefits are enormous.”

But in the scientific lexicon, “significant adverse effects” do not equate to “modest” risks. It was this sort of language in a previous report that killed the mine’s first iteration. So what Battinson and company are counting on is disproportionate weight being given to the “enormous” economic benefits they’re touting for the project.

Jobs vs. Environment

Taseko may be right, given the political climate in Ottawa and Victoria. We know that Premier Christy Clark has been pressing the Harper Government to approve the mine and the Prime Minister has made no bones about his commitment to  “extractive industries” as the cornerstone for Canada’s economy.

The decision will likely come down to whether the federal Cabinet agrees with Mr. Battinson’s risk-vs.-reward characterization – i.e. whether the impacts are as minimal and the job benefits as “enormous” as he contends.

But should it? Is it acceptable to contaminate a lake, potentially destroy fish populations, trample on the rights and quality of life of local First Nations, seriously threaten grizzly populations…so long as enough jobs are created?

Worth the risk for Harper?

Moreover, in the “risk” column lies more than just environmental impacts. Stephen Harper seems to have recognized of late that some of the key energy projects on which he’s basing his economic vision – the proposed Enbridge and Kinder Morgan oil pipelines to BC’s coast – have been severely undermined by his tone-deaf approach to First Nations.

In redering their verdict on the New Propsperity Mine, Cabinet will have to weigh out the broader political implications of overruling not just their own government panel’s report, but the strong objections of First Nations. The latter would further undermine Harper’s efforts to win First Nations’ approval for proposed pipeline projects in BC.

My bet is Harper will wisely cut Taseko loose.


About Damien Gillis

Damien Gillis is a Vancouver-based documentary filmmaker with a focus on environmental and social justice issues - especially relating to water, energy, and saving Canada's wild salmon - working with many environmental organizations in BC and around the world. He is the co-founder, along with Rafe Mair, of The Common Sense Canadian, and a board member of both the BC Environmental Network and the Haig-Brown Institute.

5 thoughts on “No Prosperity for Taseko? Report should kill mine; company digs in

  1. The Canadian govt as it now stands, and the mining/ resources industry will not be happy until they can fly across Canada together in a private jet and look down at all the lakes , rivers and streams and say, ” Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink”……….

  2. In 2010 I submitted this below resolution to “Stop Schedule 2 Lakes and Rivers” to FCM as well as a similar one to UBCM.

    After a bit of explanation as to how it could affect local governments or people FCM sent an emergency status letter to federal environment minister of the day Prentice. Due to the efforts of many, not long after minister Prentice squashed the Prosperity proposal but unfortunately approved another one on the same day.

    I remember reading a university study on the economics that it would be at a deficit to taxpayers as far as the cost of subsidies as opposed to benefits.

    My resolutions were passed by both FCM and UBCM. It is sad that this mines proposal does not respect the ancestral rights of the people as well as the habitat values of the area. Thank you to all involved for having the tenacity to continue fighting for the next generation and the insight to look at bigger picture!


    Sponsor: Fraser Valley Regional District, Chilliwack, BC

    WHEREAS the government of Canada has constitutional authority over the protection of fish and fish habitat, and has a responsibility to Canada’s public to prevent the destruction of natural fish habitat, and to ensure more protection for our shrinking finite clean water sources;

    AND WHEREAS Schedule 2 of the Mineral Mining Effluent Regulation, under the Fisheries Act, and various provincial authorizations under the Environmental Management Act and the Water Act are being used to authorize, and are proposed to be used, to authorize the conversion of fish bearing lakes, streams and rivers and any other fish habitat into toxic tailings ponds for mines;

    THEREFORE LET IT BE RESOLVED that the FVRD through the FCM petition the Federal government to discontinue the permitting of any Schedule 2 Lakes designations in the Province of B.C. and in Canada.

    Stop Permits on Schedule 2 Lakes and Rivers

    Motion Information:

    For many years Canadian as well as other international Mining Companies have been contaminating the drinking water sources of third world Countries. Most of the people are so poor that they have had no choice but to drink and use the toxic waste water which has caused many illnesses, miscarriages, and deaths. We are a country with many resources, but our greatest and most valuable resource is water and healthy habitats, but for how long? The USA does not allow Schedule 2 or the similar equivalent of, but even so they still afford to mine there. Companies that make several billion dollars every year can certainly afford to pay the extra costs of a proper tailings pond, the environmental risk and costs are far too high otherwise.

    It was reported on the news that Yemen may be the first country to run out of water. Many large American cities are also predicted to run out of enough water in the very near future, and that by 2025 much of the world will be a dust bowl. California has had 48% less rainfall in the last 5 years. Even the highest glaciers in the Himalayan Mountains are expected to be gone by 2035. With those kinds of predictions from climate experts, should we be treating any water sources with such disregard? I believe that within a few years water will be recognized as the most valuable resource. It is already marketed as one of the fastest growing commodities being traded. When water is in short supply anywhere it is bound to have a spin-off effect of supply and needs of other areas.

    There is currently a lot of mineral exploration in the FVRD, as well as much of B.C. and Canada. If we open the door to Schedule 2, will it create a landslide of approvals?

    Prime Minister Harper announced in March 2010 that he would open the door to international mining companies.

    So with the precedent of Schedule 2 Lakes already set, will there be an onslaught of new Schedule 2 applications? Under NAFTA or Free Trade laws would we be able to stop them, and would it also be at huge legal and environmental cost to the public?

    Director Wendy Bales
    Electoral Area C, FVRD

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