The review panel for the federal environmental assessment of the proposed New Prosperity Gold-Copper Mine Project has been established.
On Wednesday Peter Kent, federal minister of the environment and minister responsible for the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, announced the three panel members and the panel’s terms of reference for the environmental assessment.
Kent has appointed Dr. Bill Ross as the panel chair, as well as Dr. George Kupfer and Dr. Ron Smyth as panel members.
Reacting to the announcement, Tsilhqot’in National Government Chair and Tl’etinqox (Anaham) Chief Joe Alphonse says the panel guidelines have scaled back the obligations around aboriginal rights.
“That would initially be a point of concern for myself. I think we have the largest right and title case ever won in B.C. and in Canada and those are issues the federal government has to take very seriously, over and above the scientific-related thing the panel has to do,” Alphonse says, adding the federal government has a duty to protect aboriginal rights.
Aboriginal rights will be something his government will be demanding and pushing for, he insists.
While he’s disappointed a First Nations member with all the right qualifications was not appointed to the panel, Alphonse says he’s confident the panel is legitimate and will arrive at the right decision.
Brian Battison, Taseko Mines Ltd.’s vice-president of corporate affairs, says Kent’s announcements are important steps in a process that’s unfolding.
“The terms of reference look to be consistent with the minister’s commitments. There’s a 12-month process, the review is focused on what has changed in the project, i.e. preserving Fish Lake, and the process is relying on the work done on the previous environmental assessment to the extent possible,” Battison says, adding Taseko does not intend to comment on the make-up of the panel.
According to a news release, Ross is a professor emeritus at the University of Calgary in the Faculty of Environmental Design. He has focused most of his research on the professional practice of environmental assessment and has extensive expertise on cumulative effects assessment.
He has a Bachelor of Science from the University of Manitoba and a Ph.D. in Physics from Stanford University.
Ross has developed training, taught and advised on many aspects of environmental assessment in Canada and internationally.
In addition to teaching postgraduate students, he has delivered training courses to further the practice of environmental assessment in many countries. In 1994, he headed the Canadian Mission to the Middle East to determine environmental assessment capabilities and needs as part of the Multilateral Peace Process.
He is the founding president of the Western and Northern Canada Affiliate of the International Association for Impact Assessment. He has chaired the Independent Environmental Monitoring Agency for the Ekati Diamond Mine in the Northwest Territories for five years and has worked with the four aboriginal groups involved for a decade. In 2009, Ross was the winner of the Rose-Hulman Award from the International Association for Impact assessment.
The news release says Ross has considerable experience as a member of environmental assessment review panels in Alberta and British Columbia. He chaired the federal review panel for the Oldman River Dam and he served on the joint review panels for the EnCana Shallow Gas Infill Development Project and the Joslyn North Mine Project. He participated on the federal panels reviewing the twinning of the Trans Canada Highway in Banff National Park and the CP Rail Rogers Pass Project and was a member of the joint federal-provincial review panel established for the Alberta-Pacific Pulp Mill. He was an advisor on cumulative environmental effects to the Cheviot Coal Mine Review Panel in Alberta.
Kupfer is a consultant focusing on community consultation, conflict resolution and mediation related to social and environmental issues and industrial development. He has a B.A. from Seattle Pacific University, as well as a Master’s and Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Washington. He taught at the University of Alberta for 15 years, before establishing his own company, Fresh Start Limited. Dr. Kupfer primarily works in western Canada and lives in Sidney, British Columbia.
Kupfer has facilitated many community consultation and stakeholder engagement initiatives related to industrial projects and their impacts. He has led multi-stakeholder consultations on drilling applications, gas pipeline developments, sour gas issues, transmission line route selection, on the relationship of the environment and the economy, and forest conservation strategies. He facilitated a multi-stakeholder review of the Alberta environmental impact assessment process and on developing agreements between First Nations, Métis and the government in the Wood Buffalo Region.
For a short time he was the public consultation advisor to the Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board and afterwards assisted in a number of board consultation and mediation projects. He has facilitated Crown consultation processes with First Nations for the federal and Alberta governments and advised the National Energy Board on the development of an internal aboriginal consultation process and on dealing with pipeline emergencies. He has worked with First Nations and Métis, industry, individuals, communities and government departments in Alberta, British Columbia and the Northwest Territories.
Kupfer has served on numerous environmental assessment panels, specifically related to water management issues. He was recently a member of the joint federal-provincial panel reviewing a run-of-the-river hydroelectric project on the Peace River near Dunvegan, Alta. He was also a member of panels reviewing water management projects for the Pine Coulee and Little Bow/Highwood projects in Alberta, and for reviews of the Jackpine and Horizon oil sand developments in northern Alberta. He managed the review panel of the Alberta-Pacific Pulp Mill and served as social impacts advisor to the Oldman River Dam Panel. Until recently he was a member of the Bute Inlet Hydroelectric Project Review Panel until the project was withdrawn.
Smyth is a professional geologist and independent consultant. He holds a Ph.D. in geology from Memorial University of Newfoundland. He spent most of his career in government geological survey organizations; first with the Newfoundland Geological Survey where he held senior positions in geological mapping and mineral resource assessments from 1972 to 1982. He joined the British Columbia Geological Survey in 1982 as a mineral land use specialist and prepared regional assessments of mineral and coal potential for land and resource management planning processes.
Smyth was director and chief geologist of the British Columbia Geological Survey from 1984-2002 and was the principal advisor to the B.C. government on geological matters relating to minerals and coal. He has broad experience in the application of geology in the assessment of proposed new mines. He was a scientific advisor to the B.C. Mine Development Review Process in the 1980s and was responsible for a team of geological experts that provided scientific input to assessments of proposed new metal and coal mines. He also held the position of chief science officer for the Offshore Oil and Gas Team, B.C. Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources from 2002 to 2008. In this position he was the government’s expert on the geology and resource potential of the Pacific offshore basins and was the Ministry’s chief advisor on science issues related to offshore energy development. He interacted with a range of stakeholders, including First Nations, non-governmental organizations, industry, academia, and the public.
Smyth was an adjunct professor, School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, University of Victoria and was co-chair of the University of Victoria-Ministry of Energy and Mines Research Partnership Committee from 2004 to 2008. He has been a member of numerous scientific advisory boards. He resides in Victoria, B.C.
The terms of reference, the guidelines, as well as additional information on the project, are available in the Canadian Environmental Assessment Registry on the agency website at www.ceaa-acee.gc.ca, under reference # 11-05-63928.