September 9, 2013
Misinformation cited during review of Prosperity Mine
Taseko Mines told a federal review panel that opposition to a proposed $1 billion gold mine in central BC is based on a campaign of misinformation, but First Nation leaders say this position is fully supported by their communities.
“Taseko has observed that there is an extraordinary lack of understanding of the New Prosperity project and its potential effects,” said John McMannus, vice president of operations at Taseko Mines Ltd. “We were discouraged to find that over and over again through this process, presenters came forward to object to various aspects of the project, expressed concerns or asked questions about the project that indicated they were badly misinformed about the project.”
McMannus made this statement late last month as part of his closing remarks at public hearings in Williams Lake for the federal environmental assessment of the proposed New Prosperity copper and gold mine.
According to McMannus, Taseko’s efforts to engage the public were being frustrated by misinformation, which is manufactured by an organized campaign to stop the project. However, he said there is substantial Aboriginal support for the project.
Chief Joe Alphonse, Tribal Chair for the Tsilhqot’in National Government disagrees with this view, but he is also very frustrated with the federal environmental review process.
“I view this process as a waste of time, waste of my time,” he said. “What part of ‘no’ don’t we understand here? No is a pretty simple word; a two-letter word the last time I checked. This is not Tsilhqot’in process. And I’m done, fed up, tired of this process.”
The proposed Prosperity mine project went through an environmental assessment process in late 2010, and was rejected by Environment Minister Jim Prentice, due to the significant adverse environmental effects. In particular, the development of the mine would result in the destruction of Teztan Biny (Fish Lake), Y’anah Biny (Little Fish Lake) and portions of Fish Creek for use as tailings ponds for toxic waste.
However, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency ruled in November 2011 that the New Prosperity mine project will undergo a new environmental assessment.
“Where I sit I can say one thing; that there is no other politician that can say anywhere my people are behind me almost 100 per cent. And I challenge any politician to have the type of unity that I have right now within the Tsilhqot’in Nation in opposition to this project. We’ve seen this project one too many times. The only time in Canada we’re looking at an environment review second time round.”
According to McMannus, Taseko has modified the original proposal in very substantial ways, which includes the preservation of Fish Lake.
“As we’ve stated before, the redesign of the mine to preserve Fish Lake represents an unprecedented and significant accommodation of Aboriginal rights,” he said.
The new proposal claims it will preserve Fish Lake as a viable aquatic system by moving the tailings pond a couple of kilometres away and containing all mine operations within one single watershed.
However, several experts said during the public hearings that Taseko’s plan to recirculate Fish Lake’s flows to keep it alive is untested and unproven at the proposed scale of the New Prosperity operation.
“Our communities are opposed to turning Teztan Biny into the world’s largest fish tank, with no way to change the water,” said Roger William, Chief of the Xeni Gwet’in, one of the six Tsilhqot’in communities.
“Even Tsilhqot’in Elders understand that fish tanks need fresh water regularly if the fish are to survive. No wonder that federal and provincial experts raised serious concerns as well.”
Other experts testified that there is no evidence that the complicated water treatment system proposed for Fish Lake would be technically feasible, or that the costs of treatment would be affordable by the company.
The original proposal had a total capital cost of $800 million, but development design for New Prosperity is predicated on higher long term prices for both copper and gold, which results in a direct increase in capital costs of $200 million
The proposed Prosperity mine project is a large open pit gold-copper mine, located about 125-km south west of Williams Lake.
The project involves the construction of an onsite mill and support infrastructure, a tailings storage facility, a 125-km long electrical transmission line, explosives factory and magazine, and an access road.
The project is expected to generate 375 jobs per year, during the two year construction period.
Taseko argues the project will result in enormous financial benefits for the people in the Caribou-Chilcotin region, B.C. and Canada, including employment, training and education of aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.
The mine would contribute about $340 million to provincial GDP annually, $400 million in provincial revenue and $43 million to local and regional governments.
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