A Tale of Two BC Mining Fiascos


There are two mining stories out of last week in Lotusland.

For openers, let’s deal with “Prosperity” Lake which, before the corporate flacks got involved, was called Fish Lake.
The short story is that this is a mine prospect held by Taseko Mines. While the Provincial government approved it, it was turned down by the feds who then gave the company time to put in a new proposal, which they did. With the speed of light the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency received the new application last February and hasn’t yet decided anything. This delay brought a fire and brimstone editorial from the Fraser Institute’s house paper, the Vancouver Sun, which threw unsourced “facts” at us, including a promise of 71,000 jobs with 5,400 new residents for the nearby town of Williams Lake. We’re not told where those figures come from but clearly they’re from the large sack of extravagant statements the Fraser Institute keeps on hand for whenever their definition of capitalism is called to account.
Since the Sun doesn’t state otherwise, we must assume that the 71,000 jobs are for construction of the mine, which is preposterous. Whatever jobs it does take will, based upon long experience, come from outside the province. And are these 5,400 new arrivals necessary to run a mine?
Mr. Mihlar, the Fraser Institute’s editor of The Sun, the think tank’s poodle, should visit an operation of a modern, computerized mine before throwing numbers around.
A neat line in the editorial refers to outside agitators, I can only hope that I and fellow environmentalists are amongst them. The thought that environmentalists are outside agitators brings a sense of deep pride; how rewarding it is to be compared to the “freedom fighters” in the American South in the Sixties.
It’s so much like the Fraser Institute’ poodle, the Sun, to pretend they are not “outside agitators”.
The Sun’s call for putting the Taseko Prosperity Mine on the fast track is code for “approve at once” and ignores the fact that First Nations people and we outside agitators have yet to be heard from on the new proposition.
If I were able to cross-examine the company and their flacks my question would be: Why didn’t you submit your amended proposal in the first place? (The proposal existed, in fact, but the company insisted it wasn’t “economically viable”, before suddenly changing its tune the day after the first proposal was rejected). Can we assume that if you’re turned down for proposal #2, you have “proposition 3” in your ass pocket?
It’s interesting that Mr. Milhar doesn’t deal with the environmental concerns that remain, with attention be paid to the threats of damage to other waters especially to migrating salmon streams. Even though the company’s latest proposal seeks to avoid destroying Fish Lake, it still threatens Fish Creek, Taseko Lake and the Taseko River – important salmon habitat that eventually connects with the Fraser River.
It’s also interesting that the Fraser Institute/Sun combination believes that where development and the environment clash development must carry the day.
This infomercial of Mr. Milhar should help us start the great debate, namely, what do British Columbians want to be – one of the blessed lands where commercial intrusion is secondary to environmental preservation or a place where when a conflict occurs, industry holds all the trumps?
Then there’s the Boss Power case – a uranium property which has cost the taxpayers $30 million to settle. If the Liberals had continued the no uranium policy brought into force by the excellent Environment Minister in 1979 (name provided upon demand) this issue would not have come up.
As Mike Smyth of the Province stated in a column last week, this case has the same stench the BC Rail case had – gross negligence of staggering proportions that, as with the BC Rail case, best not let a judge with an open courtroom sniff around.
There is another angle to this story not given sufficient attention.
First a bit of background.
Ministers have the right to have their policies implemented by the public servants however much they may not want to; what ministers cannot do is interfere with a public servant who’s doing as a statute compels him to do. Registrars under various different statutes are usually under a statute which sets the rules he must administer – he has no options.
For a minister to try to influence the administration of a statutory obligation would, in a decent government, be forced to resign.  
In this case the company was making an application to The Chief Inspector of Mines for a permit to drill. The chief inspector has a statutory obligation to receive and pass judgments – ministerial interference is highly improper.
The then Minister of Mines, Kevin Krueger, instructed the Inspector to ignore the company’s application to drill. This is so improper that the minister should have resigned or, failing that, been fired forthwith.
What this case shows is that the Campbell/Clark government has the morality of an alley cat (with apologies to the feline community). Read alongside the BC Rail cover-up we see tawdry, sloppy ministers with no clue about what ministerial impropriety means and with a contempt for process an integral part of their modus operandi.
These two stories, read together, show an alarming disinterest in real values and respect for the public’s right to know the facts and the ability to be heard. The Vancouver Sun editorial, when you think on it, takes the breath away – process means let’s get on with it! Corporation “facts” must be considered holy writ and the process an ill-disguised sham – a quick, pro forma minor nuisance.
British Columbians must decide what sort of place they and what values they hold. And since the next major decisions will be pipelines and tankers, the sooner the better.


About Rafe Mair

Rafe Mair, LL.B, LL.D (Hon) a B.C. MLA 1975 to 1981, was Minister of Environment from late 1978 through 1979. In 1981 he left politics for Talk Radio becoming recognized as one of B.C.'s pre-eminent journalists. An avid fly fisherman, he took a special interest in Atlantic salmon farms and private power projects as environmental calamities and became a powerful voice in opposition to them. Rafe is the co-founder of The Common Sense Canadian and writes a regular blog at rafeonline.com.

6 thoughts on “A Tale of Two BC Mining Fiascos

  1. Interesting stats from the Fraser Institute Rafe. I am presently consulting on the largest mine construction project in Central America ($4.6Billion USD) and it’s only creating 9,200 jobs at peak of construction and just under 1,900 employees at full operation (3 shifts). What was that old saying “There are three degrees of liar… Liars, Bloody Liars and Statisticians”?

  2. I understand that the new proposal includes a new tailing pond to be located upstream from Fish Lake, which was the originally-proposed tailing pond.

    In my view, what is the difference? Toxic metals from the new leaching pond will eventually flow DOWNSTREAM into and poison Fish Lake anyways.

    And, if the Keystone pipeline project is permanently turned down, expect to the Northern Gateway pipeline to be rubber-stamped.

  3. What about Canadian mining companies operating in other countries where we are seeing people being beaten to death while protesting against how these companies are operating there. Apparently there are no Laws in Canada to oversee what Canadian mining companies do abroad.

  4. I will never read the Vancouver Sun again. Outside agitators indeed! High praise to belong to a group who would preserve paradise for our children. Keep up the great work Rafe, you keep getting better like a fine wine. Happy Birthday.

  5. This government is so blatantly inept with their actions, this reminds me of the sale of 1/3 of the Waneta Dam, which the government had BC Hydro bail out Teck (the largest contributor to the Liberals) by buying that 1/3 for $840m and then 2 years later allowing Fortis to buy into half the Waneta expansion for $400+m for the same amount of power( or at least within a couple of kw. And the public never gets the real facts.

  6. I heard “my” MLA Kevin Krueger on the radio last week blaming the whole Boss payout on the NDP! Of course Kevin blames every bad thing on the NDP.

    I can’t remember if it was on CBC radio or on the Kamloops Radio NL (Fox News Kamloops) but that comment sure ‘went away’ didn’t it?

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