Environmental Review Panel Release Scathing Report on Proposed Fish Lake Mine
A few weeks ago, Sierra Club BC joined the chorus of voices welcoming the CEAA review panel report on Taseko’s proposed New Prosperity mine. The panel found that the mine would have “significant adverse effects” on fish and fish habitat, water quality, Aboriginal use and the South Chilcotin grizzly bear population.
Based on this review, it should have been a slam dunk for the environment minister, Leona Aglukkaq, to reject the mine. But now the proponent, Taseko Mines Ltd, is putting pressure on the federal government, heading to court with claims of technical mistakes in the review process. Meanwhile, the company still owes the federal government its share of the cost of the first review, back in 2010.
It’s time to put this project to rest once and for all. The mine proposal was studied twice, at vast public expense, and rejected based on submissions from both federal and provincial government scientists.
The proposed mine would surround Fish Lake, home to over 80,000 rainbow trout and sacred to the Tsilhqot’in First Nations, with a massive open pit mine, closing it to fishing for up to 33 years. The project would also destroy Little Fish Lake, another important trout habitat, turning it into a toxic tailings pond.
“This review is every bit as scathing as the first one in 2010, which led to the rejection of the project by the federal government," said Sierra Club BC Executive Director Bob Peart. "We’re glad the panel has listened to concerns raised by the federal and provincial government experts at the hearings, and fully expect that the final decision by Minister Aglukkaq will again be a sound rejection of this destructive project.”
The panel determined, based on strong evidence submitted by government agencies (both provincial and federal), the Tsilhqot'in and other participants that Taseko underestimated the impacts of water contamination and that the proposed target water quality objectives for Fish Lake are not likely achievable. (Panel Report Executive Summary, October 31, 2013, CEAR #1179, p. 4).
Recognizing the cultural value of the area to Tsilhqot’in, the panel found that the effect of the proposed New Prosperity mine on the environment would significantly impair the Tsilhqot’in’s ability to use the area for traditional activities, cultural and spiritual practices, intergenerational transfer of culture and knowledge, and traditional values. (Panel Report, October 31, 2013, CEAR #1178, p. 197)
“The project would utterly destroy a complex and healthy ecosystem. Turning a pristine, productive lake into an aquarium and putting it on indefinite life support is unthinkable not only for the Tsilhqot’in but for every British Columbian who values clean water and healthy fish,” said Peart.
While the review panel have made their position clear, the final decision on the proposed New Prosperity mine lies with the federal government. Please write a letter to Minister of Environment Leona Aglukkaq and urge her to reject this damaging project.
Taseko Mines Ltd’s original proposal for a gold and copper mine near Williams Lake was rejected in 2010 by then federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice, following an environmental assessment that concluded the mine would cause irreparable damage to First Nations rights, as well as to fish stocks and at-risk grizzly populations.