Imperial Metals Corporation is the owner of BCMetals Corp which in turn owns the Red Chris Copper-Gold property in northern British Columbia (BC). In 2005 the BC Ministry of the Environment gave their approval of the project. The locals were not happy. Along with MiningWatch Canada they went to court. In September 2007, the court found for MiningWatch, calling the process followed by the mining company and the regulators “an evasion of a Comprehensive Study [that] had all the characteristics of a capricious and arbitrary decision which was taken for an improper purpose." The judge told them to go back to square one and consult with the people in terms of settled Canadian law.

The court decision is at this link.

Before you get upset about this decision, note what the court said in comparing the public consultation in this case to that which occurred in the case of Galore Creek (See page 67 to 60 of the court’s decision; also see page 102.)

In the end result, there was no public consultation with respect to the screening report prepared in 2006 under the purported authority of section 18 of the CEAA. This contrasts sharply with the evidence on file that the public has been consulted by the RAs with respect to the comprehensive study prepared in the case of the Galore Creek Gold – Silver – Copper mine, which is also located in the area where the Red Chris property is situated.

The Red Chris project is described thus:

The Project is based on the mill production rate of 30 000 tonnes of ore per day for sale to the export market, over a projected mine life of 25 years. The mine site would be accessed by a new long access road which would intersect highway 37 on the south side by Coyote Creek. The 550 tonnes of concentrate produced per day at the mill would be transported to the deep-sea port of Stewart situated about 200 km to the south of the proposed development. The Project is expected to require 228 million in capital expenditures and would generate 250 direct full-time jobs. Apart from the Project, current or reasonable foreseeable projects and mining activities in this area include: the Galore Creek project, an open pit mine that would process up to 60,000 tonnes per day of ore and produce up to 2,000 tonnes per day of gold-copper concentrate; the existing Tom McKay Lake waste rock and tailings project, near the Eskay Creek mine; the current and proposed Kemess North and existing Kemess South projects; and the Mount Klappan project.

The good news came in 2005 from the British Columbia Ministry of the Environment:

The proposed Red Chris Copper-Gold Mine project has received environmental approval following a comprehensive review by the provincial Environmental Assessment Office. Located 450 km north of Smithers and 18 km southeast of Iskut, the Red Chris Mine project involves the construction and operation of an open-pit mine, including storage areas, waste dumps, an access road, a power line to the site, a worker camp and a water supply. The Environmental Assessment Certificate contains requirements to protect the environment during the lifetime of the project, including:

  • A Wildlife Management Plan with input from government and the Iskut and Tahltan First Nations.
  • A Fisheries Habitat Compensation Plan that meets Fisheries Act requirements.
  • A First Nations and local consultation program throughout the life of the mine to solicit feedback with respect to socioeconomic, environmental and wildlife management issues.
  • Plans to reclaim the site on completion of the project.
  • Until a viable power source is determined, no development of the project that would create disturbance to the land, except for that which is allowed under the existing Exploration Permit.

The bad news came in 2007. Here is a web report:

Following a Federal Court decision on September25, 2007, the future of the proposed Red Chris Mine - a huge acid-generating mine proposed for northwestern British Columbia - has been put in doubt.

The precedent-setting decision upholds the fundamental right of Canadians to be consulted during the environmental assessment of large mines on the comprehensive study list. The Court found that the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act enshrined this right when it was amended in October 2003. Representing MiningWatch Canada, Ecojustice lawyers (formerly Sierra Legal) filed the lawsuit in June 2006.

In his decision, Mr. Justice Luc Martineau condemns the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and Natural Resources Canada for unlawfully evading a comprehensive study environmental assessment of the Red Chris Mine, and unlawfully preventing the public from participating in the federal assessment. The decision orders that the Red Chris Mine be denied any federal permits on the basis of the unlawful environmental assessment.

The Imperial Metals website has this announcement:

Imperial Metals Corporation (TSX:III) reports the Federal Court of Canada today ruled that the Federal environmental assessment of the Red Chris project was procedurally incorrect and should have been carried out by way of a comprehensive study review and not as a screening level review. The Court found the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Natural Resources Canada ("Responsible Authorities") did not have the authority under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act ("CEAA"), to re-scope the project to a screening level review after the Responsible Authorities had determined they would proceed by comprehensive study review. The judgment sets aside the Federal environmental assessment completed in May 2006 which determined the Red Chris project was not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects. As a result of this judgment, the Responsible Authorities will be required to revisit the environmental assessment of the project under CEAA. The decision of the Federal Court does not affect the Environmental Assessment Certificate issued by the Province of British Columbia in August 2005 following a thorough environmental assessment that concluded the Red Chris Project is not likely to cause significant adverse impacts. The Company sees this decision as a setback for environmental review of projects in Canada by significantly limiting the ability of Federal and Provincial authorities to harmonize their respective review processes and avoid costly duplication and uncertainty. The Company will be conferring with the Responsible Authorities to determine how they wish to proceed.

More background on the issues involved in this case can be found at this link.