Tag Archives: Mining

Rocky Year for Taseko Mines


Read this story from Mining.com on embattled Prosperity Mine proponent Taseko Mines and the challenges they’ve faced with two major projects over the past year. (Dec. 12, 2012)

Canadian Taseko Mines (TSE:TKO) is having a rocky end of the year as workers threaten to strike at the company’s copper-molybdenum Gibraltar mine, in British Columbia.  Were that not enough First Nation representatives are calling the company to “stop wasting everyone’s time” and withdraw the controversial New Prosperity mine project proposal.

The miner said it has received a 72-hour strike notice by the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) Union, which represent workers at Gibraltar.

On Monday, an independent panel reviewing the gold-copper New Prosperity project told Taseko that major deficiencies with the proposal must be addressed before the group can consider proceeding to public hearings.

In an e-mailed declaration, Tsilhqot’in National Government Tribal Chair, Chief Joe Alphonse, remarked this is not the first time the miner received a letter from the authorities outlining deficiencies in the company’s environmental impact statement (EIS).

Alphonse added that Taseko has spent years and over $100 million on this project, “despite being advised of serious concerns with the project in 1995 by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Governments and the Tsilhqot’in Nation, among other First Nations.”

The proposed open-pit mine, to be located approximately 125 kilometres southwest of Williams Lake, has raised the ire of environmentalists and First Nations groups for the proposed destruction of a lake to be used as a tailings impoundment.

The original $1.1 billion proposal was rejected in 2010 by the federal government due to the company’s plan to drain Fish Lake for the storage of non-acid generating rock.

In the spring of 2011, Taseko came back with a new proposal that would save Fish Lake, but the Western Canada Wilderness Committee (WCWC) criticized the plan as, from an environmental perspective, worse than the original one.

In response, the Vancouver-based firm filed suit against WCWC and its outreach director, Sven Biggs, for defamation regarding the project.

Read original post: http://www.mining.com/taseko-mines-weathers-multiple-storms-60159/

This map from the David Suzuki Foundation's recent report shows all human-driven change to the Peace Region (buffered by 500 m) in red.

New Suzuki Foundation Report Shows Staggering Longterm Industrial Impacts on Peace Region


Roads, dams, logging, mines, fracking, seismic lines, pipelines, transmission lines. The Peace Valley region in northeast BC has seen its share of industrial development over the past half century. Now, a new report from the David Suzuki Foundation vividly illustrates the toll these cumulative impacts have taken on the land.

The foundation commissioned scientists from Global Forest Watch Canada to survey 40 years worth of satellite images in order track the increasing industrialization of the land. They found that over that span, more than 65% of the region has been impacted by industry – often involving different activities layered on top of each other – leaving little intact wilderness.

“Our study found that there are 16,267 oil and gas wells, 28,587 kilometres of pipeline, 45,293 kilometres of roads, and 116,725 kilometres of seismic lines packed into the Peace Region. If laid end to end, the roads, pipelines and seismic lines would wrap around the planet an astonishing four and a half times,” said Peter Lee, who led the research study.

Far from being a thing of the past, this industrialization of the region continues marching forward, with the proposed Site C Dam, new coal mines, and continued logging, fracking and other impacts. All this occurs atop important habitat for threatened populations of grizzly and caribou and amid sensitive boreal forest critical to carbon absorption and sequestration.

The Suzuki Foundation is supporting the work by Treaty 8 First Nations, farmers and conservationists to oppose Site C Dam, which would be the third dam on the Peace River. Representatives of these groups recently came to Vancouver and shared their message with local media.

“Enough is enough,” West Moberly First Nations Chief Roland Willson told The Vancouver Sun. “We need to slow down. It’s more important to maintain the integrity of what’s there than put it under water…all to expand the industrial footprint.”

Said Dr. Faisial Moola of the Suzuki Foundation in a blog on the report’s release, “If built, Site C would flood 3,173 ha of prime farmland and destroy sensitive wildlife habitat.”

“That’s why the David Suzuki Foundation is standing with local farmers and ranchers, as well as the Dunne Zaa/Dane zaa First Nations, to oppose further destruction of this productive, ecologically important and picturesque valley with the construction of the Site C Dam and reservoir.”

Download the full report here.

Damien Gillis is co-directing a documentary, Fractured Land, which examines these issues in detail. Learn how you can support the film here.


‘Canada’s Carbon Corridor’: Multi-Media Dialogue in North Vancouver Nov. 14


This Wednesday evening, the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival is hosting a multi-media discussion of “Canada’s Carbon Corridor” at Centennial Theatre in North Vancouver. The event is part of the festival’s Fall Series – a week of films and presentations on outdoor adventure and environmental themes.

The title for Wednesday’s event comes from a term developed by the team producing the forthcoming documentary film Fractured Landof which I am co-director. We came up with the concept to articulate a big-picture view of the interconnected web of major oil, gas, coal, mining and hydroelectric projects proposed and in development across northern BC and Alberta, and the Harper and Clark governments’ grand plan to export these resources to new markets in Asia. I view the Carbon Corridor as the biggest transformation to Western Canada’s socioeconomic, cultural and environmental fabric since the colonial, “nation building” days of the railroads of the last century. And I don’t think that’s an understatement.

I will be sharing the stage with six other “inspiring Canadians who are working to protect our coast, our environment and indigenous community’s rights and cultures”, according to VIMFF’s web page for the event. That list includes event organizer Megan Martin, young First Nations singer/songwriter Ta’Kaiya Blaney, Ben West of the Wilderness Committee, photographer Zack Embree, Great Bear Rainforest eco-tour guide and activist Norm Hann, and Kim Slater, who ran 1,177 km run across BC in search of alternatives to Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline.

My 25 min presentation, titled “Traveling Canada’s Carbon Corridor Through Film: The Making of Fractured Land, will feature a series of short clips from our forthcoming film, which explores the industrialization of northern BC and Alberta through the eyes of a young First Nations law student, Caleb Behn. I’ll be retracing a recent two and a half week filming journey with Caleb across the Carbon Corridor – through the conversations we had with people in the various communities affected by these projects and visuals of both industrial activity and the spectacular, untouched wilderness threatened by this plan. 

In addition to the series of presentations on stage Wednesday evening, a number of environmental organizations will be on hand with additional information about these important issues.

The evening promises to be a dynamic, compelling discussion on the challenges and solutions facing the future of Canada’s economy, society and environment.

Tickets for the “Canada’s Carbon Corridor” event can be purchased here for $15.00 or $17.00 at the door. The show takes place on Wednesday, November 14 at Centennial Theatre in North Vancouver (2300 Lonsdale Avenue). Doors open 6:30 pm, show starts 7:30.


Canada’s Resource Sector Prepares for Slowdown as Global Market Uncertainty Grows


Read this story from the Globe and Mail on the anticipated slowdown of Canada’s resource-based economy as global commodity prices show signs of serious decline. (Oct. 9, 2012)

Canada’s resource-fueled economy faces the threat of a swooning commodities market at a crucial point in the economic recovery.

From Europe to the United States and especially in China, the outlook for commodities is diminishing heading into 2013, with the impact already being felt abroad.

Evidence is mounting that Canada, where commodities drive about 20 per cent of the gross domestic product, will not be spared some hardship. Canada is a major producer of potash, coal, iron ore, nickel, copper, gold, zinc and uranium, among other base and precious metals that have been hit especially hard as a decade-old commodities market starts to lose steam.

Resource companies account for about half the weight of the Toronto Stock Exchange, and some are feeling the pinch in profits.

On Wednesday the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and the U.S. Energy Information Administration both shaved their forecasts for crude-oil consumption in 2012 and 2013, citing ongoing weakness in the global economy and hitting a key economic driver for Canada.

“I think over all there is a particularly large impact if you are looking at Canadian equity markets,” said Peter Buchanan, senior economist with the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. “Quite clearly, subdued prospects there do provide some downside risks for some of the metals.”

The International Monetary Fund said this week it had trimmed its forecasts for economic growth in Canada – to 1.9 per cent this year and 2 per cent next, down in each case by 0.2 percentage points from earlier projections – and warned unemployment will remain at 7.3 per cent.

That came just days after Toronto-listed Thompson Creek Metals Co. said it was cutting $100-million in spending at an Idaho mine in order to be able to finance construction of a new mine in British Columbia.

Suncor Energy Inc. said in July it was rethinking billions of dollars of planned spending because of increasing costs.

Lower capital spending by the resource sector, about one-quarter of total business capital spending, could end up having a significant impact on Canada because it is such an important driver of the economy.

“The prospects that one of the other sectors, consumption or government spending, could accelerate to offset that is virtually zero,” said George Vasic, chief economist and strategist at UBS Securities Canada Inc. Mr. Vasic said he is not yet alarmed about the potential impact on Canada, but that his outlook could change if business capital expenditures fall off in Canadian resources. “So, it is a significant potential development, which I think is only partially reflected in forecasts,” he said.

The world’s third-biggest diversified miner, Rio Tinto PLC, started the week by saying it had become more cautious about the business outlook than even a few months ago. It says it will delay new project approvals in the near term.

Read more: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/industry-news/energy-and-resources/canadas-resource-sector-braces-for-slowdown/article4602744/?cmpid=rss1

Caleb Behn, the subject of the film

‘Canada’s Carbon Corridor’ Part 1: Connecting the Dots Across Northern BC


I recently returned from a whirlwind tour across northern BC, one of many legs of filming for a documentary and multi-media project I’ve been co-directing for the past year and a half, called Fractured Land. The people we spoke to along the way, the sights we witnessed and documented finally brought into focus the real story about energy development in BC.

It is clear to me that the proposed Enbridge Pipeline, which has been the target of so much activism and media attention of late, is merely one piece of a much bigger puzzle that promises to transform this province like nothing since the days of colonial, railroad-driven “nation building.”

Our film and the multi-media series that will accompany it through our website, FracturedLand.com, and various social media tools, is the story the industrialization of northern BC – told through the eyes of a talented, eloquent young First Nations law student named Caleb Behn.

The two sides of Caleb’s family are rooted in the epicentres of both major natural gas hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) plays in northeast BC – West Moberly Territory near Hudson’s Hope, under which the Montney shale gas field extends; and Echo Dene Territory around Fort Nelson, home of the Horn River shale gas field. Taken together – along with the recently discovered neighbouring Liard Basin play – form one of the world’s meccas for “unconventional” gas (read: highly experimental and dangerous).

We began our film by focusing on fracking – a relatively new method of natural gas extraction that involves burrowing deep into shale formations and blasting them with a toxic mixture of high-pressure water, chemicals and sand to crack open the shale and release the gas. But throughout our adventure, we’ve come to see that fracking doesn’t exist in isolation. Neither does the proposed Site C Dam on the Peace River in the same region, nor gas and bitumen pipelines proposed to cut across BC’s wilderness en route to Kitimat and Prince Rupert, nor myriad, massive proposed Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) plants on BC’s coast, nor the dozen or more serious coal and metals mines proposed throughout the north, nor the Alberta Tar Sands.

It is a serious mistake to put any of these projects in a silo. They are all, in fact, systemically interconnected in what my colleagues and I have come to think of – at least until a more apt description emerges – as “Canada’s Carbon Corridor”. Before this article and its second part conclude, I will briefly illustrate this interconnected web of energy projects that extend from BC’s coast to the Alberta Tar Sands – covering virtually the entire top half of the two provinces. However, the real work of fleshing out the components of this carbon corridor and how each piece relates to the next will be accomplished through a subsequent series of stories over the next two months – each exploding a different piece of the big puzzle – all cross-published through The Common Sense Canadian and the blog for Fractured Land.

Both this film project and my colleagues at The Common Sense Canadian – which has made its mission to inform the public about the energy, environmental and public policies reshaping BC and Canada – will seek to lodge this big picture view, with all its socioeconomic and cultural implications, on the agenda of the public and media in the lead-up to a pivotal provincial election next May. This is a sorely needed conversation that so far has been lost in the simplistic rhetoric championing the project of opening Western Canadian oil and gas resources to new markets in Asia and the one-track chorus of opposition to the Enbridge proposal.

If that seems unfair, allow me to state my case herewith.

We began our recent two and a half week journey in northeast BC, before traveling along the Alaska Highway through Fort Nelson, Liard Hot Springs, Watson Lake just over the Yukon Border, then down Highway 37 through the Sacred Headwaters and Tahltan First Nations country, southwest to Kitimat, east to the Morice River near Houston, and finally to Prince George to deliver a presentation to faculty and students at UNBC, before heading home to Vancouver (an approximately 5,000 km journey, all told).

Over the past several years, I’ve made seven trips to northeast BC (I’m currently here again for the “Keepers of the Water” conference in Fort Nelson) and more than that to northwest BC and its coast, but this trip – as it tied together both sides and centres of development in the province – felt like the quintessential journey through BC’s proposed economic future. Through it, we traced the interconnections of this carbon corridor and met people on both sides of the arguments around these individual projects.

If there’s one thing that has become abundantly clear to our production team, it’s that this is a conversation which defies easy polarities. The fracturing we reference in our title, taken literally from the process of fracking, serves as a metaphor for the conflict within individuals, families and communities torn between developing economic opportunities and protecting their core values  and ancestral practices on the land.

Far from shying away from this tension, we are drilling deep into it.

After driving 15 hours north from Vancouver, we began our experience at Carbon Lake, near Hudson’s Hope – at a camp once owned by my great uncle, Penn Powell, who operated it as a fly-in fishing lodge for years. Today, it is owned and operated by the Saulteau First Nation – the people of our central character Caleb’s grandmother.

Caleb comes here in the summer to hunt moose and reconnect with his land. Unfortunately, the moose are slim pickings these days – likely partly related to all the roads for logging that bisect the onetime wilderness surrounding the lake. Now, a large open pit coal mine threatens to finish the job. Carbon Lake gets its name for a reason. One can pick up large blocks of metallurgical-grade coal from the bed of nearby Carbon Creek, the site of one of a number of proposed new coal mines throughout the Peace River Coalfield.

To get to the lake, we had to drive over Williston Reservoir and WAC Bennett Dam – the first major dam in the region, which helped set the stage for the resource boom that followed. Caleb and my families have much in common beyond this camp at Carbon Lake, as we’ve learned throughout the making of our film. Another thing we share is that both our families lost our land in the flooding of Williston Reservoir in 1968. My family’s land, upon which it settled in 1914, was known as Goldbar Ranch at 20 Mile. Today, many of my uncles who remain in the region work in the gas patch. As do many of Caleb’s relatives. Such are the complexities inherent in the sort of large-scale resource decisions being made today – mostly without the broad-based knowledge and will of the public.

That said, Bennett Dam was built to provide affordable, “clean” (or so we thought at the time) electricity and new economic opportunities for all British Columbians. I believe my family understood that, even as we watched our barns and hand-crafted cabins and grand old log home burned to the ground and drowned forevermore.

Today, two fracking companies – Talisman Energy and Canbriam Energy – have a 20-year license to suck 10 million litres a day of water from that same reservoir (before it’s converted to power for British Columbians!) for their nearby fracking operations.

Moreover, Site C – which would be the third dam in the Peace Valley, stretching 80 km east from Hudson’s Hope to Fort St. John and flooding some 13,000 acres of agricultural land and a comparable amount of Boreal Forest wildlife habitat – is not being proposed to power BC’s homes and businesses. We have access to plenty of electricity for those purposes. Rather, this power will go to the myriad proposed mining operations across the north and, according to Premier Christy Clark, compressing natural gas into liquid to sell to Asia. All of these industrial operations are enormously energy dependent – to the point we would need multiple Site C Dams to even begin powering them.

From Carbon Lake, our team traveled north to Fort Nelson, where we visited with the other side of Caleb’s family. Fort Nelson is the jumping off point for the Horn River shale gas operations, which have been slowing down of late, due to the cratering price of natural gas, but contain enormous development potential and have been wildly active in recent years. The Cabin Gas Plant, North America’s largest, is just nearing completion after several years of furious construction. The adjacent Liard Basin formation was recently touted by Apache Canada as “the best reservoir in North America” for gas fracking.

Yet little of this development will occur unless a higher price can be obtained for the resource. This relatively new method of fracking has flooded the North American market with supply, driving down the price for gas, which is why new markets are being sought in Asia, where gas prices are currently much higher.

Unlike the gas plays around Fort Nelson, the Montney play – in Caleb’s mother’s territory, where we began our journey – often produces what is considered as “wet gas”, meaning it contains other products, such as sulfur and condensate, both of which have considerable value on their own. Condensate is used to dilute bitumen from the Alberta Tar Sands, which is too viscous to pump through a pipeline on its own.

This is another way in which Canada’s Carbon Corridor is interconnected – both natural gas and condensate go from BC to Alberta to melt and extract bitumen and to dilute it for transport.

But the big idea, for now, is to open up new markets for northeast BC gas. If these LNG plants and the pipelines connecting northeast BC gas to northwest BC refineries proceed, you can bet Horn River activity will ramp up to new heights and the Liard Basin will be cracked wide open.

We drove near these proposed Liard operations en route to the northwest corner of the province and it is some of the most exquisite country any of us has seen. We passed through pristine valleys coursing with crystal-clear water from the Northern Rockies and by herds of majestic wild bison and various ungulate species. Our soak in the Liard Hot Springs was one the trip’s big highlights – I would highly recommend it to anyone who finds themselves in that neck of the woods.

Watch for Part 2 of this introduction to Damien Gillis’ “Canada’s Carbon Corridor” series Saturday – completing the journey across northern BC to the northwest, examining everything from mining and unconventional gas proposals in the Sacred Headwaters to the construction of the Northwest Transmission Line, the Pacific Trails gas pipeline to Kitimat and proposed LNG facilities there.


Teck Resources Admits to Knowingly Polluting Columbia River for a Century


Read this story from The Vancouver Sun on the recent admission by Teck Resources that effluent from its Trail, BC, smelter has been polluting US waters downstream in the Columbia River for 100 years, with the company’s knowledge. (Sept. 11, 2012)

Teck Resources has admitted that mining waste and effluent from its Trail smelter polluted the Columbia River across the U.S.-Canada border in Washington State for 100 years.

Its subsidiary, Teck Metals Ltd., agreed to these facts as part of a civil lawsuit with U.S. plaintiffs, which include American first nations and the State of Washington, over damages from the pollution that was discharged from 1896 to 1995.

The Teck Metals agreement released Monday acknowledges some portion of the effluent and slag from its Trail operations in southeastern B.C. were transported and present in the Upper Columbia River in the U.S., and that some hazardous substances were released into the environment in the U.S.

The company said this is expected to allow the court to find that Teck is potentially liable for damages.

However, Teck says the statement of facts doesn’t concede the pollution caused any harm.

“We haven’t agreed to the amount of injury that’s potentially the result of that (pollution release) — certainly not the risk to human health and the environment,” said Dave Godlewski, vice-president of environment and public affairs for U.S. subsidiary Teck American.

That’s being determined by ongoing studies that could be complete by 2015. Teck reached an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2006 to fund $20 million in environmental impact studies.

Results of a 2001 preliminary EPA study showed that contamination was present in sediment above the Grand Coulee Dam.

Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Mining+giant+Teck+Resources+admits+British+Columbia+effluent+polluted+waters+updated/7217671/story.html


Executives from Teck Resources pose with former BC Finance Minister Colin Hansen at a gala celebrating their company's $12.5 million donation to the Vancouver Aquarium, The Same company recently admitted to knowlingly polluting the Columbia River for decades. (Aquablog photo)

Rafe on ‘Corporate Citizenship’ and Changing Views


Sometimes a good dose of introspection is good for the soul…and as a test of whatever principles you now espouse.

I’m always amused when someone accuses me me of “inconsistency”, which reminds me of Emerson’s aphorism, “foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds”.

It remains, obviously, to decide if my changes in position are foolish.

I admit to being a contrarian. Seeing that, and recognizing that it might be an interesting experiment, Premier Bill Bennett made me Environment Minister in 1978. It was only a year as I was moved up to Health the next shuffle but that time gave me much pause for reflection and I became convinced that Industry would only care about the environment  if they were forced to or if, somehow, it made them money. As my associate Damien Gillis often points out, if corporations did things that prevented them from paying dividends or putting the bottom line first, it was tantamount to a breach of fiduciary duty.

This is true. The only thing a company is supposed to do is make a profit.

Companies often take pride in employing people as if that was an act of good citizenship, not for the purposes of profiting from employees’ labours.There is, of course, nothing wrong with companies employing people – what’s wrong is the notion that they do this out of some charitable gesture, motivated by altruistic philosophy.

They take pride in spending philanthropically although, as Jimmy Pattison has shown around the province, that is seldom done anonymously. Moreover donations are tax deductible.

Often the donation interferes with the plans in place – let me explain.

Say a company wants to place an MRI scanner in a certain hospital. The Health Ministry will have a schedule for placing these machines and the corporation’s choice is not at the top of the list. The donation now, in effect, deprives another hospital of the MRI it had reason to expect was theirs. Now, if the corporation were to say, “I understand that hospital X is in line for an MRI, I will build it for them,” that would be quite a different thing.

There’s another important factor – MRI’s cost a fortune to run. If the corporation stays in the lineup, the government will have made provision for the cost. When it jumps the queue, the Health budget is distorted.

I have nothing but praise for philanthropy when it is done in cooperation with the targeted donee and the donor is not seeking to gain business from the publicity and is not seeking a tax break.

My only point is that one makes a serious mistake in thinking that donations from corporations are not intended to increase profits.

Back to the environment. In Tuesday’s Sun was a headlined story of how Teck Resources has been polluting the Columbia River for decades and doesn’t deny the story but simply denies the the damages claimed. This candid admission came only after they were sued.

In all events, my short stint as Minister of Environment confirmed what I long had suspected – the real environment department of a company is its public relations budget and that there were no exceptions to that rule.

British Columbians now face serious environmental problems on many fronts – mines, rivers, farm land, fish farms, pipelines and tankers to name a few. And here’s the rub – the corporations are under no compulsion to behave appropriately and, in fact, the onus is not on them to demonstrate that their venture is environmentally sound; no, it’s private citizens and organizations they form that bear that onus!

The Precautionary Principle places to onus of proof on the developer, not the public.

In fact, the onus should not just be on the developer. Counsel for the public should be the governments, but they are, when so-called “free enterprise” parties rule, virtually always bought and paid for and wind up supporting the developer and bad-mouthing environmentalist groups. It’s interesting to note that Ministers accuse environmental groups as being bankrolled by foreign money as they help foreign companies such as Chinese government-owned corporations and companies like General Electric gobble up our resources, pollute like hell then take their money and run.

(Incidentally, The Common Sense Canadian has no foreign “sugar daddies” and would like it known that we would love some!)

Does all this mean that I’m a neo-communist – or even a socialist?

Not at all. I believe in the marketplace, if only because nothing else works as well. I say this recognizing that “socialist” countries are not that at all – they just demand that companies pay their fair share of taxes and obey social and environmental rules. I don’t want public ownership, other than natural monopolies, but strong laws and good policemen.

That is what I mean when I call myself an environmentalist.

In Canada as a whole and in British Columbia we have government of the corporation, by the corporation and for the corporation.

That’s what we must change if we ever wish, as Lincoln actually said, to have a government of the people, by the people and for the people.

Heavy Metals, Acid Mine Drainage a Threat to Pacific Salmon Watersheds

Heavy Metals, Acid Mine Drainage a Threat to Pacific Salmon Watersheds


Heavy Metals, Acid Mine Drainage a Threat to Pacific Salmon Watersheds

Heavy metals and sulfuric acid, otherwise known as battery acid, or acid mine drainage, are toxic for wild salmon. That should be obvious, but after Bill C-38 – the federal budget implementation bill which “streamlined” environmental assessments, gutted environmental protection agencies, and virtually eliminated local spill response capabilities – the future of British Columbia’s best remaining salmon rivers and watersheds is uncertain. The possibility of mine pollution leaching into fish habitat and spawning grounds is a real and long-term threat. In fact, it’s already happening. For a glimpse of the future of Pacific salmon watersheds, you may need to look no further than the sordid case of Chieftain Metals and the Tulsequah Chief mine in the Taku River watershed in northwestern BC.

The Taku River flows from BC into Alaska and is the largest totally intact watershed on the Pacific coast of North America. It also contains an old mine site, the Tulsequah Chief, which was abandoned in the 1950’s. For over half a century the mine has slowly leaked contaminated water into the best spawning grounds on the highly productive Taku River.

Recent attempts to re-develop the mine – first by Redfern (which went bankrupt in 2009), then by Chieftain Metals (a company co-founded by the former CEO of Redfern) – brought the promise of cleaning up the site. Sadly, it was a false promise. On June 6, 2012, Chieftain Metals announced its intent to close the Interim Water Treatment Plant installed at the Tulsequah Chief site in November 2011 to address chronic acid mine drainage and heavy metals pollution. The company will now be violating its discharge permit, and contaminants will again seep into the river.

What happens now is anyone’s guess. At this time, Chieftain can’t afford to run the water treatment plant. The mine proposal, including a 122 km road through the currently roadless watershed, is fraught with financial and logistical problems and a dwindling social license from the residents of Atlin and the Taku River Tlingit First Nation.

Now is the time for the governments of BC and Canada to step in. If both governments choose to look the other way on the noncompliance by Chieftain Metals, it will show that neither government has any real interest in salmon habitat and fisheries conservation issues.

The stakes are high. The situation facing the Taku River may be a future scenario for the transboundary region as a whole. Along with the Taku River, the Stikine, Iskut and Unuk Rivers support robust populations of all five North American species of Pacific salmon, which sustain commercial, sport, and subsistence fisheries in both BC and Alaska. All of these latter three rivers are threatened by proposed mining projects that dwarf the Tulsequah Chief by several orders of magnitude.

BC Hydro’s Northwest Transmission Line (NTL), a 287 kV power line running 344 km north from Terrace to Bob Quinn on Highway 37 near the Iskut River, is currently under construction in the transboundary region. Billed as a “gateway” project to further industrial development, the power line could lead to the construction of up to 11 new mines.

Most all of these proposed mines, such as Red Chris, Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell, and Schaft Creek, are huge open pit copper and gold mines that would leave behind millions of tons of waste rock that would need to be treated for acid mine drainage for centuries to come.

Ingesting even minute amounts of copper makes salmon more susceptible to predation. Ingesting sulfuric acid – created when the mining process exposes sulfide minerals to water and air – is acutely toxic for salmon. In a region that has heavy snows, frequent avalanches and seismic activity, the potential for an industrial accident is high. This poses an unacceptable risk to internationally significant salmon habitat.

In the post-Bill C-38 Canada, our nation’s environmental protections have been greatly weakened. But as renowned Canadian scientist Dr. David Schindler has said, “All species, including humans, require functioning ecosystems based on healthy habitats. It is the explicit role of government to find the balance between protecting this habitat and encouraging sustainable economic growth – not to pit them against one another.”

The transboundary region is a place where government can still try and get it right.  They can start by stepping up and forcing a cleanup of the Tulsequah Chief mine site. Failure to do so would send a signal that both federal and provincial governments have chosen to abdicate their responsibility to protect our environment, and that pollution risks to Pacific salmon watersheds will likely continue to grow.

Tadzio Richards is the Canadian Transboundary Conservation Campaigner for Rivers Without Borders


Government Pushes Raven Coal Mine to Next Stage, Comox Valley Residents Remain Defiant


The recently released Application Information Requirements/Environmental Impact Statement (AIR/EIS) Guidelines Document on the Raven Underground Coal Mine Project signals the end of the Pre-application Stage of the Environmental Assessment (EA) process and sets the table for the next stage, which is the Application Stage. This AIR/EIS document is partly the culmination of several years of public consultation, which included 3 public meetings and 3 public comment periods, resulting in a near record 5,000 written comments submitted. Over 95% of the written comments expressed concern or opposition to the project.

In theory, the purpose of the public consultation was to produce an AIR/EIS that would adequately address the public concerns about the massive coal mine’s negative impacts on the region’s water aquifers, the Baynes Sound shellfish industry, air and noise pollution, and socio-economic issues, just to name a few. Not surprisingly, the early reviews of the AIR/EIS show a document that is largely deficient, and the AIR/EIS has not adequately addressed the public’s concerns. Since the proponent’s application will be based on the AIR/EIS document, it’s clear that the application will be flawed and not address the public’s numerous and legitimate concerns, and moreover the future EA process on this project will not be rigorous or comprehensive.

Despite widespread public concern and opposition, and the lack of a social license being granted by the residents of the Comox Valley and Port Alberni, the EA process continues to move forward. However, the huge public outcry over the coal mine proposal is growing louder every day and the communities impacted by the Raven Mine are united more than ever in their opposition to this insane proposal.

In the coming months we’ll continue to strengthen our message of concern and opposition to the Raven Mine, and make it clear to our local, provincial, and federal elected officials that this project is unacceptable. With the provincial election just around the bend, you never know, some of them might actually listen.

A lot of twists and turns left to go in this saga, and as Yogi Berra once said, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.” Stay tuned.

John Snyder is a resident of Fanny Bay, BC, and the president of CoalWatch Comox Valley


Father, daughter battle proposed Clayoquot Sound mines


At a recent forum on mining in Tofino, BC, a First Nations father and daughter from Clayoquot Sound expressed their opposition to a pair of mines proposed by Imperial Metals for their traditional territories – also the location of a world-renowned UNESCO biosphere reserve. John Rampanen, of both the local Tla-o-qui-aht and Ahousaht First Nations, spoke about the impacts of the mines on his family’s traditional way of life and of the need to balance employment with ecological sustainability; his eleven year-old daughter, Kalilah Rampanen, sang a song she wrote about Catface Mountain – the location of a proposed open pit copper mine in the heart of the Clayoquot Sound.

In her song, titled “Chitaapi” (Catface’s indigenous name), the young singer-songwriter warns Canadian mining titan Imperial Metals, “If you wanna mine my mountain, / Well, you’re gonna have to go through me.” Watch John Rampanen’s speech and see his daughter Kalilah perform her song “Chitaapi” here.