Taseko Mines Ltd. has submitted its Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the New Prosperity Gold-Copper Mine Project to the federal government.
“The heart and soul of this EIS is the additional $300-million commitment to environmental responsibility,” Taseko’s vice president of corporate affairs Brian Battison said Thursday.
Moving the tailings facility 2.5 kilometres away from the mine to preserve Fish Lake has resulted in the additional costs.
“You’ve got to make sure that there’s enough space between the tailings facility and the lake so there’s upstream spawning habitat,” Battison said.
The proposed water management plan for New Prosperity is based on Taseko’s operation at its Gibraltar Mine northeast of Williams Lake.
“We’re very confident about managing a tailings facility. That’s what we do at Gibraltar. Every copper-gold mine has tailing facilities and it’s something that’s been done for decades and decades here in B.C., Canada and elsewhere around the world. The technology is well proven and there’s nothing new as far as the technologies we’re proposing to use.”
The conclusion reached by Taseko in the EIS is that there will be no significant adverse environmental effects.
Battison said copies of the EIS will go to the panel, the federal government, all the First Nations bands in the region, to libraries and city halls for public access, and will be available online.
“It’s a public process so people have to have easy access to it,” he said.
Tsilhqot’in National Government Chair and Anaham Chief Joe Alphonse said the EIS submission by Taseko starts the time clock. Once all registered parties have copies of the EIS, the 45-day public comment period on the sufficiency of the information will begin, followed by up to 30 days for the panel to review and determine if it’s ready for the public panel hearing process.
“Our position has not changed,” Alphonse said. “The threat is still there and all of our concerns have not been alleviated. It wouldn’t matter if the tailings pond was moved 50 kilometres upstream of Fish Lake. The mine is still going to have an impact on that lake.”
Going back to the first Prosperity Mine proposal and statements made at that time by Taseko that it was not possible to save Fish Lake, Alphonse said those are the statements he believes.
“Which Taseko do you believe? The Taseko of today or the Taseko that presented during the last environmental review? What’s the use of having a lake that’s completely dead.”
Describing the terrain at the mine site, Alphonse said the way the land is sloped and shaped, there’s no way to hold anything back.
“The concern is they will still destroy the lake. The drilling project that’s going on there now will demonstrate and prove our point. We have a hundred per cent faith that this is not a location to be conducting such a project.”
In its list of mitigation and significant effects, however, Taseko said there will be fish habitat mitigation plans to mitigate the potential harmful alteration, disruption, and destruction of fish habitat.
Extensive use of water recycling and water management strategies to protect the aquatic ecology in Fish Lake and the Fish Creek Watershed, along with seepage and runoff collection systems to monitor the quality and quantity of mine effluent, will also be put in place.
Cariboo Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett is pleased that the proposal is at this point.
“I’m a supporter of the project and I look forward to it moving ahead.
“Hopefully the proposal is successful and the environmental assessment panel starts the public process,” she told the Tribune Thursday.
Reacting to comments Battison made during a presentation to Williams Lake City Council last week where he urged the provincial government to ensure all necessary approvals for the project are granted in a timely manner, Barnett said she agreed.
“This mine is so important to the Cariboo Chilcotin. I’m very disappointed and disillusioned that Adrian Dix and Charlie Wyse will not approve this project. It is one that is going to give the communities in the Cariboo Chilcotin the futures they need,” Barnett said, adding the project must move forward.
The environmental approval and First Nations consultation are of utmost importance, she added, saying she’s confident those will be carried out properly.
“If those things are a go we have to move forward. We cannot continuously say no when we keep saying we have a pine beetle issue. Communities have to find new innovation and new creation for jobs and in the Cariboo Chilcotin. All we have is our resource industries.”
Cariboo North Independent MLA Bob Simpson said Monday he is hopeful that Taseko has done due diligence in the EIS submission, that it has taken it seriously and addressed the concerns raised by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency about the draft EIS.
“I wish they would stop trying to facilitate a division within our First Nations communities by playing one chief or elder statesmen against current elected chiefs,” Simpson said. “It doesn’t serve anybody’s purpose, but further inflames the situation. I’d like Taseko to step down on that. Let the process unfold. Let’s hear everybody’s voice and get to a decision.”