FONV study suggests mine road maintenance may be costly

A study commissioned by the Friends of Nemiah Valley says road upgrades and maintenance for Prosperity Mine would cost taxpayers big.

A study commissioned by the Friends of Nemiah Valley says road upgrades and additional road maintenance for the New Prosperity Mine would cost taxpayers at least $42.2 million over the 20-year life span of the mine.

The road costs are one more reason the mine should not be built, said FONV president David Williams.

“That such a disaster in the making should be subsidized by the taxpayers to the tune of many millions of dollars is simply uacceptable.”

Williams told the Tribune Taseko has not included a dollar figure or maintenance for the rebuilding of those roads.

“Our assessment is that amount will be required, given the load Taseko’s going to put on them and that includes Highway 20 as far as Hanceville.”

The study’s author, geotechnical engineer Don MacKinnon, drove the entire route, making observations mile by mile.

“He’s a professional engineer and has done a lot of road building and road work in his life,” Williams said.

MacKinnon’s report explores existing roads from Williams Lake to the proposed mine’s location.

They include the 90 kilometres of two-lane paved road on Highway 20, the 68.4 kilometre gravel Taseko Lake Road (Whitewater Road), and the 19.4 kilometre single-lane gravel 4500 Road (Riverside Haul Road) that will be upgraded with pull outs added and spaced at two kilometre intervals. A new 2.8-kilometre, five-metre-wide single lane gravel road with pull outs that will be constructed by Taseko to access the mine site.

Taseko’s Environmental Impact Statement describes the gravel roads as “all weather logging roads,” a point challenged by the report.

“The road breaks up in the spring,” Williams said. “Winter might be fine, that’s when the logging trucks use it mostly. Because in the spring and summer it will break up quite badly, which means they won’t be able to maintain the rate of haul they claim they will on that particular road.”

During construction of the mine and then when B-Train trucks start hauling ore concentrate from New Prosperity to Gibraltar Mines northeast of Williams Lake, the roads will require heavy duty rebuilding according to the study. Williams divides his time between living in Victoria and Nemiah and said everyone living in Nemiah uses the 4500 Road to travel back and forth.

“With all the traffic going back and forth there’ll be a loss of wildlife, an impact on grizzlies, and human lives will be lost because of the sheer volume of traffic. We calculated 30 B-Train trucks a day. In many places the road is narrow with switchbacks.”

Taseko vice president of corporate and community affairs Brian Battison said nothing has changed with respect to the roads in the current proposal.

“Nothing has changed with respect to where the concentrate would be hauled, or with respect to traffic going into service the mine. All of those things, because they don’t change mean the previous environmental assessment information is sufficient for the purposes of this current panel review.”

The only new road construction is the 2.8 km piece that connects the mine site to the 4500 Road, he added.

“That would be our responsibility. The other roads that the ore trucks will follow are public roads and they include Highway 20 and Highway 97. Road maintenance and upgrades to public roads are normally a government responsibility as part of the overall public infrastructure of the province,” Battison said.

In an emailed response, the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Natural Gas said it does not set the requirements for reporting costs in feasibility studies and as will all business, it is up to the company to determine whether they can build a mine and make a profit.

“Generally speaking, most feasibility studies include many of the key costs included in developing a project of this magnitude.”

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure said until the federal environmental review is concluded, questions about the need for road improvements are speculative. and that it was unable to respond to questions about any upgrades that might be required.

Williams said there’s also a single lane 200 foot wooden bridge near Chilko Ranch at Yunesit’in over the Chilcotin River, that FONV is getting an estimated cost for rebuilding from a bridge engineer that’s not included in the road report.

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