The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) has told Taseko Mines there are major deficiencies in the approach the company has used to assess the cumulative environment effects of the New Prosperity Mine.
In a letter addressed to Taseko dated Nov. 26, panel chair Bill Ross stated: “The approach excludes a number of valued ecosystem components (VEC) and key indicators from the cumulative effects assessment. Given the importance of this deficiency, the panel is submitting this information request in advance of other information requests which will be submitted by Dec. 11, 2012.”
The letter also states it is the panel’s view that this information as well as responses to forthcoming requests are required for the panel to determine if the EIS is sufficient to proceed to public hearing.
After the additional information is submitted, the panel will decide whether or not to provide a 15-day public comment period, based on the additional information provided, or to proceed to scheduling public hearing.
Responding in a letter, dated Nov. 27, John W. McManus, Taseko senior vice president of operations, expressed the company’s disappointment.
“It is discouraging that the panel has used an apparent technicality to stop the timeline remaining for the panel to complete the review,” he stated.
Xeni Gwetin (Nemiah Valley) Chief Marilyn Baptiste said Nov. 29 she was not surprised by the panel’s letter.
“I was expecting the panel to say there are deficiencies, not just a few. What’s disheartening and disgraceful is to hear Taseko say it’s a technicality. How is it a technicality? It’s so far beyond a technicality,” Baptiste said, adding the project should be thrown out altogether.
“Why waste everybody’s time and energy with a project that’s not being taken seriously by the company that’s putting it forward? Anyone with common sense knows that a massive open pit mine surrounding a lake will not save that lake or any lake.”
Tsilhqot’in National Government chair Chief Joe Alphonse echoed Baptiste, saying it was good news to hear the project’s been delayed.
“It was surprising and not surprising,” Alphonse said of the letters. “Taseko feels it’s going to get the project approved through the political process and not a proper environmental one. It blows me away that they put so much resources into this and yet they are their own worst enemies when they say they don’t want any delays.”
All Canadians demand a high standard and the CEAA has shown those standards are going to be upheld, Alphonse said.
Brian Battison, Taseko’s vice president of corporate and community affairs, said the panel is asking for something Taseko has already submitted.
“The work they refer to was done in the first proposal and there’s no need to do additional work. It has already been determined there will be no significant environmental effects to 22 of 24 potential environmental impacts,” Battison said.
Two incidents were identified by the panel where there might be significant effects have been addressed by the current EIS Battison said.
A fish compensation plan in a potential 33-year mine life, addressed by the saving of Fish Lake, and effect on grizzly bears, which was not a direct result of the mine, but increased traffic that the mine might generate, he explained.
“Cumulative effect is the effect of all mankind’s activity, past, present and future, so we’re asked to assess that and we did that in the EIS. The panel is supposed to take into consideration the findings of the previous panel and the government decision that resulted from that.”
Battison said Taseko thinks it’s time for the public hearings to begin and the public to have an opportunity to voice their opinions on the project.
Today, Nov. 29, Ross responded to Taseko’s Nov. 27 letter, stating the panel does not agree with Taseko’s stance, and reiterated the panel’s request for additional information.
Ross’s Nov. 29 letter and the others are available on the CEAA website.