Read this press release on Mining Watch regarding the Assembly of First Nations’ unanimous support for the Tsilquot’in people in opposing a second attempt by Taseko Mines to build a highly controversial gold and copper mine on their traditional territory west of Williams Lake. (July 14, 2011)
From the Times-Colonist – Feb 24, 2011
by Paul Willocks
The Liberal government – and would-be leader Christy Clark – are looking a little inept in the Taseko Mines affair.
certainly wouldn’t be a first choice if you needed someone astute to
negotiate a good deal on a used car. They’ve proven to be too quick to
believe the story about the former owner who only drove it to church on
Sundays and too willing to pay the list price without asking any
Since 1995, Taseko has been seeking approval for the
open-pit Prosperity Mine 125 kilometres southwest of Williams Lake. The
mine would make the company a lot of money and boost the economy, but
there would be major environmental damage and conflict with First
The provincial government approved the project
a year ago. The environmental damage would be significant, the
provincial assessment process determined. A lake would be turned into a
big tailings dump, for example.
But the provincial review process
balances the damage against the economic benefits. Blair Lekstrom and
Barry Penner -then the mines and environment ministers -decided the jobs
from the gold and copper mine were worth the destruction.
But the project was big enough, at $800 million, that there also had to be a federal environmental review.
was found the mine would have “significant adverse environmental
effects on fish and fish habitat, navigation, on the current use of
lands and resources for traditional purposes by First Nations.”
Aboriginal rights and a grizzly population might be at risk.
The Harper government considered the review, decided the damage was too great and said no.
Campbell was unhappy. So were many people in the region. The mine would
mean about 375 jobs and $20 million a year in revenue for the
provincial government. The north faces several decades of tough times
while the forests recover from the pine beetle disaster; it hurts to
give up opportunities.
The two governments took different
approaches. The federal government focused on the damage done; the
province on balancing the costs against the benefits.
legitimate. Any major resource project -or new road or trail -brings
some environmental damage. But the provincial government’s approach
calls for competence in reaching the best balance and making sure the
company is doing all it can to address concerns.
The government, as it turns out, didn’t do that.
this week, Taseko announced a new plan. Copper prices are high, the
company said. We can afford to build a tailings pond to hold the mine
waste. We don’t need to destroy the lake after all.
But companies rarely make major investment decisions based on fluctuations in commodity prices over the course of a year.
seems more likely Taseko thought governments would accept the cheaper,
more environmentally destructive option of using the lake as a waste
dump. That would save it $300 million -good news for shareholders.
The provincial government did accept the lake’s destruction; the federal government didn’t.
And as a result Taseko came up with a better plan.
not too surprising. Taseko forecasts it can take $3 billion worth of
gold and copper out of the mine over 20 years and produce a 40 per cent
pre-tax return. It can afford a significant capital investment. (The
public, which owns the minerals, will get about $400 million.)
reasonable to trade off the benefits and costs of development in
assessing projects. But you need a competent government able to get the
best deal for the public.
And in this case, at least, the B.C.
government failed to ensure environmental protection which, it turns
out, the company was able and willing to provide if pressed.
Christy Clark. She made the mine an issue in her leadership campaign
before Taseko unveiled its new approach. She called the federal decision
“dumb” and promised to go to Ottawa and fight for a reversal. She
backed the plan that would have -needlessly -destroyed the lake. The
environmental damage was acceptable given the benefits, Clark said.
(Stephen Harper said the project’s rejection was based on the facts and
wouldn’t be reversed based on political lobbying. The government will
review the new proposal.)
The Prosperity Mine case shows the
provincial government -not the federal government -was a poor bargainer,
too quick to buy the line that the lake had to go to make the mine
viable. Taseko has now acknowledged that’s not true.
course, raises questions about the government’s skill in handling other
projects and industry demands for subsidies and tax and royalty breaks.
Read original article
The Sun’s editorial of Nov. 5 slamming the federal decision to reject the Prosperity mine reveals a lack of understanding of the relevant facts. The editorial states: “The government of the day could have saved everyone involved on both sides of the project much time, money and angst by saying no” 17 years ago when Prosperity was first proposed.
Well, the government of the day said exactly that. In fact, three successive federal fisheries ministers from 1995 onward notified both the province and the company, Taseko Mines Ltd., that a project involving the loss of Fish Lake (called Teztan Biny by the Tsilhqot’in First Nation) was not open for discussion. Taseko knew as early as 1995 that destroying the lake was out, but continued to push its original proposal without developing a real alternative that might have saved the lake.
Read more of Tony Pearse op-ed in Vancouver Sun here