The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency has released draft environmental impact statement (EIS) guidelines and terms of reference for Taseko Mines Ltd.’s proposed New Prosperity gold-copper mine project in the Cariboo-Chilcotin.
Members of the public have until Feb. 22 to submit written comments on the preliminary documents.
Like all other interested individuals, Taseko vice-president of corporate affairs Brian Battison says his company will also participate in that review and input process.
Last November, the CEAA announced it would undertake a review of the resubmitted proposal over the course of one year, and he says Taseko hopes to see that timeline reflected.
“What we’ll be looking for … is that both documents are consistent with [federal environment minister Peter Kent’s] declaration that this process will take no more than 12 months.”
The second point Taseko will be watching in its review, which he notes is already underway, is the inclusion of Kent’s earlier commitment that the findings of the previous assessment will be used to the “greatest extent possible.”
When the federal government rejected the first proposal (after the province approved it), it was “really important” to Taseko that it was left an avenue for resubmitting a modified proposal, he explains.
“In their decision, they said they are not opposed to the mining in the Prosperity deposit … and if we, Taseko, can address the concerns identified in the environmental assessment, they will review it.”
The initial plan to drain the trout-bearing Fish Lake for a dry place to store waste rock was the “main reason” for the federal government’s refusal to approve the initial plan, Battison notes, so the proposal has since been altered to retain that lake.
“It was the main concern that First Nations expressed as well.”
However, many area First Nations continue to oppose the project, citing concerns regarding the mine’s environmental impact on Fish Lake (Tetzan Biny).
Tsi Del (Alexis Creek) Chief Percy Guichon says his landslide re-election earlier this month over his pro-Prosperity mine opponent Ervin Charleyboy demonstrates the majority of voters wanted to protect the First Nation’s land, fish, and way of life.
“It’s a strong statement coming from the membership … a lot of people who voted have told me they aren’t in favour of the present proposal for the Prosperity mine and its impact on Fish Lake.”
He adds area First Nations have been fishing there for thousands of years.
Tsilhqot’in National Government tribal chair Chief Joe Alphonse says he thinks Charleyboy would have had a “very serious chance” of regaining his previous position as chief if he hadn’t come out in favour of the mine.
Alphonse adds the election was like a mini referendum on the Prosperity mine issue.
Meanwhile, Battison says the project will have a significant economic impact in the Cariboo with its planned location 125 kilometres southwest of Williams Lake.
When the first proposal was submitted, the cost of $300 million to move one billion tons of waste rock elsewhere and retain the lake was not economically viable, he explains, although it was included as an alternative.
However, the increased value in copper and gold since 2009 has changed that forecast, Battison adds, so leaving the lake intact is now financially feasible.
Drafts of the EIS guidelines and terms of reference and contacts for submitting comments are available on the agency’s web site at www.ceaa-acee.gc.ca, on the Canadian Environmental Assessment Registry under reference 11-05-63928.
With files from Monica Lamb-Yorski