The decision to review a revised Prosperity Mine project is a first for the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.
Although the agency has never received a revised project, Annie Roy, communications manager for CEAA, said the Prosperity proposal is considered a new project because it is “another option.”
However, Tsilqot’in National Government tribal chair Chief Joe Alphonse has taken no pleasure in any distinction.
Alphonse called the CEAA’s decision to proceed with a panel review – as it did with the previous proposal – “mindboggling.”
He noted it was within Taseko’s rights to reapply, but said the government’s acceptance of the proposal for review is not something a “credible government” would do.
Alphonse said there should not be a panel review but that First Nations will participate in the process.
“As distasteful as that is for us that’s one of the only options we are subject to,” he said.
“I think there’s a lot of frustration within our communities right now. We have to continue to do what’s best for our nation and that’s protect our interests.”
In a prepared release, Russell Hallbauer, Taseko president and CEO, said of the decision, “While we need to develop a better understanding of the specifics of the panel review, the timeline evidences a significant commitment by CEAA to work effectively with us in this process.
“It is our sincere desire that New Prosperity moves through the panel review process in this time frame and that the benefits of the project begin to be realized by the country, the province, the local communities and aboriginals in the coming years.”
In an interview conducted earlier this month, a Taseko representative indicated there was an expectation the CEAA would proceed with a comprehensive study.
Roy said a review panel was chosen by the federal Minister of Environment on the basis that the project could create “significant environmental effects.”
The timeline for the review is 12 months. The release issued by the CEAA indicated the review would utilize information obtained during the previous environmental assessment “to the extent possible to ensure a timely decision.
Roy said the federal and provincial assessment processes will occur separately.
B.C.’s Environment Minister Terry Lake said Taseko is applying for an amendment to its current environment certificate that was issued by the British Columbia Environmental Assessment office last year.
Lake said although the provincial and federal assessment processes are separate he wanted to ensure some coordination.
He added it would be helpful if the two processes finish their work at the same time. Under the provincial environmental assessment model, Lake explained it is common for projects that submitted changes after receiving an environmental certificate to proceed with an amendment.
“They have an EA so as far as the provincial decision making was concerned they had that process. Now they have to apply for an amendment to it to reflect the differences between the certificate that was issued and the proposed plan.”
Lake said a decision regarding the provincial environmental assessment will be made by himself or the executive director of the B.C. Environmental Assessment office.
To date, the First Nations Summit, the Sierra Club and the Wilderness Committee have come out in opposition of the review.