Taseko Mines Ltd. plans to submit its Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to the federal review panel by the end of the week, said Taseko’s vice president of corporate affairs Brian Battison.
Battison, during a presentation to city council Sept. 18, said the EIS is presently being printed.
“The EIS is a couple of thousand pages of science and engineering, which describes how New Prosperity will be built and particularly how the water issue will be managed,” Battison said, adding the company would spend $300 million more on this proposal to mitigate environmental impacts, including the preservation of Fish Lake, and address the concerns expressed by the previous federal assessment.
The EIS also “helps alleviate concerns of First Nations and reduces impact on grizzly bears,” Battison said, adding the area is not prime or moderate grizzly bear habitat.
“The only impact on bears is thought to be the increase of traffic on roads out to the region and we have plans for mitigating that. The conclusion of the EIS is that there will be no adverse environmental effect from this project.”
No changes have been made to several aspects of the mine proposal, he said.
The location, method of mill processing, mill operations, ancillary facilities, transmission line, access road and concentrate rail load out facility have not changed.
“That’s important because this environmental assessment is about what is new and what has changed and the impact that those changes may have on the previous findings of the Prosperity project.”
Listing off the economical benefits of the project for B.C. and Canada, Battison suggested it will have a bigger economic impact than the entire B.C. fishery.
“We believe New Prosperity will dramatically benefit First Nations. There’s a lot of stuff in the media contrary to that, but when you see this new design and understand what it does, you will see it dramatically benefits First Nations communities.”
Battison said Taseko continues to work with the Tsilhqot’in.
He referenced the recent restoration work at the Puntzi Creek watershed, where Taseko funded the work, collaborating with the provincial government and Ervin Charleyboy, along with some young First Nations employees. He also highlighted exploration work at the New Prosperity site in the winter, and that the exploration work is being done by Xeni Gwet’in Enterprises.
Taseko has an agreement with the Tsay Keh Dene for road construction for at its Aley Niobium Project, north of Mackenzie, B.C.
“What’s interesting is the Tsay Keh Dene were instrumental with other First Nations, in stopping the Kemess Mine from happening, but in our case they’re working with us to see that hopefully this project can ultimately be a mine again,” Battison said, adding Taseko understands the value of working with First Nations and is trying to make the New Prosperity Mine work for everybody.
If the panel accepts Taseko’s EIS, then it will hold public hearings, and then submit a final report to the federal environment minister and cabinet. Battison said Taseko has an existing approval for the project from the provincial government.
“We have an existing EA (environmental assessment) certificate. Because of the new design, which is essentially moving the tailings facility a couple of kilometres upstream from the lake, that existing approval requires an amendment. There needs to be an amendment process that the provincial government will embark upon to grant that amendment. The province needs to get its house in order and get ready with what we need to have in place,” Battison said.
City council, following Battison’s presentation, passed a resolution supporting the New Prosperity mine development, provided that provincial and federal environmental standards are met and affected First Nations are adequately consulted.
It also called on the province to ensure all necessary provincial approvals for the project are granted in a timely manner.
“We’ve never been pro-development at all costs, but we’ve always been in support of a responsible project and looked at all the environmental standard issues to make sure that they’re met and we’ve always supported special relations with our First Nations neighbours as well, and that’s what we’re stating in this resolution,” Mayor Kerry Cook said, adding council is also suggesting the resolution be passed onto the Cariboo Regional District.
Cook added that the resolution should also be presented at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Victoria next week.
Chief Administrative Office Brian Carruthers confirmed council has a meeting at the UBCM with the premier, the Minister of Energy and Mines and the Minister of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations at the same time.
Coun. Sue Zacharias recommended the resolution be passed onto 100 Mile House and Quesnel city councils as well.
Coun. Ivan Bonnell said local MLAs and MPs should be advised of the city’s position as well.
Tsilhqot’in National Government Chair and Anaham Chief Joe Alphonse is disappointed the city has passed the resolution without asking for input from the TNG.
“At the end of the day if they choose to endorse such a company, it’s entirely up to them, but I would hope that all the parties would be heard.”
Charleyboy does not represent the TNG, Alphonse said, adding he resents Battison saying Taseko is working with the Tsilhqot’in.
“Xeni Gwet’in Enterprises are there doing the exploration drilling because we want to ensure there’s minimum damage done to the area. The information that’s going to be gathered there, as far as we’re concerned, is going to be of more benefit and use to us in our opposition to the project,” Alphonse said.