New Prosperity project EIS deemed deficient

federal review panel decision attracted Taseko objections

Brian Battison

Brian Battison

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency’s Federal Review Panel has rejected the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) submitted for the proposed New Prosperity Gold–Copper project.

Brian Battison, Taseko Mines Ltd. vice-president of corporate affairs, says the company disagrees with the panel’s demand for additional cumulative effects assessments.

There is no major deficiency with respect to cumulative effects in our EIS. So, our view is they’re asking for something they already have.”

In a Nov. 29 letter to Taseko, review panel chair Bill Ross stated the panel needs more information based on a Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) report on a sufficiency review of the EIS’ draft lake productivity information.

Taseko senior vice-president of operations John McManus had disputed the need for more scientific research and data in a Nov. 27 letter to the panel.

… it is discouraging the panel has used an apparent technicality to stop the timeline remaining for the panel to complete it’s review,” said McManus.

Ross acknowledged Taseko’s protest in his response, but said the panel won’t budge on its decision.

The Panel disagrees, and finds Taseko’s cumulative effects assessment methodology and, accordingly, the EIS deficient,” explained Ross. “According to the Terms of Reference and the act, the panel may require the information that it deems necessary to assess the project.”

The information request (IR) points to shortcomings in productivity models assuming a phosphorus limitation in Fish Lake; and the future impacts of global warming, lake eutrophication (water bodies receive excess nutrients that stimulate excessive plant growth) and recirculation of lake on its thermal regimes and productivity.

While it does delay the whole project, Battison notes any panel information requests stop the 12-month timeline government granted to Taseko for it’s current proposal.

Having been through this before, we knew it would be a long process.

Information requests are routine. This is … a normal course of events in a panel review.”

However, he explains that while it was not unprepared to receive an IR, Taseko was surprised to see it characterized it as a “major deficiency.”

The panel’s job isn’t to decide if the information is accurate, he explained, but rather to determine if the information provided is sufficient to go to public hearing.

Taseko will now regroup before going back again to the panel for another round in “the sufficiency argument,” Battison adds.

He notes there are more than 20,000 pages of scientific information in the EIS for the panel to review, understand and consider.

It’s an enormous amount of science we’ve prepared for this project. So, it’s not inconceivable that they might miss something, overlook something or misunderstand something.”

The panel also indicated further IRs will be forthcoming, Battison adds, but what those might relate to is still unknown to him.

In order for the process to continue, he says Taseko will need to satisfy the panel, whether what they are searching for is already there, or by providing the additional information.

Now, it’s up to us to consider their request, and how we might respond to it. We are in the process of doing that.

The DFO report can be downloaded at www.ceaa-acee.gc.ca/050/documents/p63928/83764E.pdf.