Conservation society drops out of Gibraltar mine advisory committee

Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society said Gibraltar needs environmentally acceptable site water management

The Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society is bowing out of the Gibraltar Technical Advisory Committee after eight years of involvement that have seen no progress, stated CCCS president Bill Lloyd.

In a letter addressed to the committee, Lloyd stated the resignation comes with reluctance and a sense of failure.

“Our focus and concern from the beginning has been to protect the health of the Fraser River Watershed,” Lloyd noted. “We have made it clear that, although we disagree with direct discharge of tailings effluent into the river, we would try to work within the parameters of the TAC to improve water management practices and specifically encourage the mine to explore and implement passive treatment options.”

When contacted for an interview, the CCCS board of directors said it was holding comments until Lloyd returns to the Cariboo at the end of November.

Gibraltar Mines is owned by Taseko Mines Ltd. Vice-president of corporate affairs Brian Battison said the company is disappointed about CCCS’s decision to withdraw its membership.

As a condition of the water discharge permit, the TAC was established to review the effects of the discharge at least once every five years, Battison said.

“The mine shares with the committee the data gathered from monitoring the water discharge and the members of the committee can provide science-based or traditional knowledge-based input to Gibraltar regarding the discharge.”

There are First Nations, the CCCS, Gibraltar, the general public and various provincial and federal department representatives on the committee, Battison added.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Environment said it is unfortunate the Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society felt it needed to take this step.

“It’s important to have all voices heard at the Technical Advisory Committee,” the spokesperson said, noting the ministry continues to work with Gibraltar to make sure it has all the information in place to make a decision that protects human health and the environment.

Battison said the mine accumulates roughly six million cubic metres of water annually, predominantly from snow, rainfall and groundwater.

The discharge is monitored weekly and “there have been no negative effects whatsoever on aquatic life or fish,” Battison said.

Lloyd, however, said direct discharge into the Fraser River is an easy solution for the company and the Ministry of Environment, but it is not the correct one for the health of the watershed.

“The cumulative effects of this practice will remain unknown for some time and it is a problem that will be inherited by our grandchildren and the taxpayer,” Lloyd argued in the letter.

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