William Lake and District Chamber of Commerce past-president Walt Cobb is encouraging chamber members to sign up to speak to the review panel on New Prosperity Mine.
“We have to get our say in. It’s time for us to stand up,” Cobb said at the chamber meeting Thursday.
Upset by news that the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) has sited deficiencies in Taseko’s Environmental Impact Statement, Cobb said he’d been on the phone to area MPs and MLAs to find out “what the heck” has happened?
On Nov. 30 Cobb also sent an e-mail to the assessment agency stating the panel’s request for additional information was “totally ridiculous” and that the panel was “grasping at straws” to find a way to cancel the project without considering how it might benefit people in the region.
Asking Taseko to look ahead 100 years cannot possibly be done with any “sensibility or reality,” Cobb noted.
“This region needs the development now, and not what may be 100 years from now, or better yet to get us to the next 100 years.”
Taseko’s vice-president of corporate and community affairs Brian Battison was also at the chamber meeting Nov. 29.
Echoing Cobb, Battison encouraged chamber members to sign up on the CEAA website to speak when the panel hearings take place in Williams Lake.
“Don’t be intimidated about standing up and telling them what your views are. Simply say I am a parent or a grandparent, I own a small business, I’ve been here for X number of years and this is my view,” Battison said.
“Tell them whether you think it’s in the best interest of this community, your family, or your business,” he said, adding other people will participate and he wouldn’t want to see anyone missing out on the opportunity.
Mayor Kerry Cook confirmed city council’s support for the project.
“In mid-September council was unanimous again in its support for the project and we made a resolution in that effect so that when we went down to Victoria to the annual Union of B.C Municipalities convention. We needed that resolution because New Prosperity came up in almost every one of our meetings with the ministers.”
Cook said the mine is an important opportunity for the community’s future.
In a reviewing the new proposal for the chamber Battison said an additional $300 million is being dedicated to mitigate the environmental impact of the mine and save Fish Lake.
“That $300 million commitment includes the protection of Fish Lake, mitigating impact to the environment to the mine, and addressing the concerns that First Nations expressed during the first review,” Battison said.
The mitigation plan has Taseko’s name on it, but was carried out by some of the “world’s finest experts in the field” who put together science that supports the new plan, he added.
“Their conclusion is that this plan has no significant adverse environmental affects,” Battison said.
“At a mine effluents, air quality, worker safety, impact on the environment, vegetation and wildlife are all managed to the point where you can conclude that there is no significant environmental effects.”
Battison’s power-point presentation depicted a photograph of a man holding up a fish caught in the tailings facility at Taseko’s Gibraltar Mine.
“Right now we have a considerable amount of healthy rainbow trout. Those trout have been there since the mid-80s and are monitored. They are healthy.
There’s nothing unusual about the fish tissue, despite the fact they’re living in a tailings pond facility. That’s testament to the quality of water that exists there. We test them regularly.”
He said people can expect the same water quality at New Prosperity.
Sharing statistics he’s presented at previous meetings, Battison predicted development of the mine would generate $4.3 billion in federal government revenues over the 20-year life of the mine, the provincial government would receive $5.5 million, and consumer spending would increase by $9 billion.
Production revenues would be in excess of $11 billion, residential investment would increase by $786 million across the province, and non-residential construction investment, in addition to the mine would increase by over $1 billion.
Investment in machinery and equipment by others would increase by $1.38 billion and the population of B.C. would increase by 5,400 because of the opportunities opened up by New Prosperity.
“It is our view that New Prosperity will dramatically benefit First Nations in the region,” Battison said.
“The provincial government has said it is prepared to share a portion of the mineral tax with First Nations, which we estimate will be between $300 million and $400 million over 20 years.
They’ve (government) signed a couple of revenue sharing agreements with First Nations already and the proportion they agreed to was 37.5 per cent.”
The mine also presents jobs, training, business and economic development in First Nations communities, he said.
“It’s a rare opportunity. These things don’t come along every day. It’s a chance to deliver large scale, lasting benefit for a lot of people.”