By Jack Caldwell - Mining Engineer - Robertson GeoConsultants

If you live in British Columbia, Canada, you probably know about the Federal Government’s refusal to allow Taseko’s Prosperity Mine to proceed. The reason: the mine would impact fish as a result ofthe use of Fish Lake for the mine tailings. The British Columbia provincial government had approvedthe mine; but the Federal government which deals with fish across the country, declined to allow the mine to proceed. Opposition by local First Nations no doubt played a significant part in the decision.

The story is long and involved and the issues have been fought for many years. Opinions are divided and vigorouslydebated. If you are for mining, this is a bad day. If you own shares in Taseko, this is a terrible day. If you love fishing you can rejoice. If you obey the law, you must acknowledge the rights ofthe First Nations. If you are planning a new mine in BC, you had better take note and adjust your strategy.

Across the border, this decision will reinforce opposition to the Alaskan Pebble Mine. Same issues; more or less the same environment; very different politics though.

There are many links you can read. Amongst the better discussions is that at a site called Opinion 250.They quote the head of Taseko as saying;

We are extremely disappointed by this decision, not only for our shareholders but for the communities that were relyingon the development of Prosperity to help offset the economic situation in the Cariboo-Chilcotin. Our next steps will be discussions with both the Federal and Provincial Government’s to look at options so that this mining project can move forward and meet the criteria that the Federal Government deems appropriate.”

They also summarize the government’s reasons for stoppingthe mine, including this one:

The Project would result in the inability of the fisheries resource in the TeztanYeqox(Fish Creek) watershed and the South Chilcotin grizzly bear population to meet the needs of present and future generations.

And:

The Project would result in a significant adverse effect on established Tsilhqot’in Aboriginal rights as defined in the William case.

A quick search turned up this conclusion ofthe William case:

  1. The Tsilhqot’in people have aboriginal rights, including the right to trade furs to obtain a moderate livelihood, throughout the Claim Area.
  2. British Columbia’s Forest Act does not apply within Aboriginal title lands.
  3. British Columbia has infringed the Aboriginal rights and title of the Tsilhqot’in people, and has no justification for doing so.
  4. Canada’s Parliament has unacceptably denied and avoided its constitutional responsibility to protect Aboriginal lands and Aboriginal rights, pursuant to s. 91(24) of the Constitution.
  5. British Columbia has apparently been violating Aboriginal title in an unconstitutional and therefore illegal fashion ever since it joined Canada in 1871.

Woodward & Company is the law firm working forthe First Nations Groups. It is interesting to brows their web site to see their take on the legal issues. Or spend some time reading the government’s announcement, which includes the following:

The Government of Canada today announced decisions on two gold-copper mine project proposals in British Columbia. The proposal for the Mount Milligan mine, near Prince George, has been granted federal authorizations to proceed. However, the Prosperity mine project as proposed, near Williams Lake, cannot be granted federal authorizations to proceed due to concerns about the significant adverse environmental effects of the project. “The Government has considered both projects carefully, particularly their environmental impacts,” said Environment Minister, Jim Prentice. “We believe in balancing resource stewardship with economic development. The Mount Milligan project has been designed in a way that minimizes impacts to the environment, while the significant adverse environmental effects of the Prosperity project cannot be justified as it is currently proposed.” The Mount Milligan project underwent environmental assessments under provincial legislation and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act(CEAA). The CEAA process involved the conduct of a comprehensive study. Both environmental assessments determined that, with the implementation of appropriate mitigation measures, the project is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects. The Prosperity project has also undergone a thorough review process, including an environmental assessment by the province of British Columbia and a Federal Review Panel under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. In making its decision, the Government of Canada took into consideration the conclusions of the report of the Federal Review Panel, and agreed with the Panel’s conclusions about the environmental impacts of the project.

Is the lesson to be learnt that you must design your mine in such a way as to “minimize impact to the environment” That is hardly a new idea; it shouldnot be a challenge; if you cannot do it, drop the mine and/or your consultants.

Follow this link to the documents involved in this case, includingthe notorious EIS and a list ofthe consultants involved. Hope their bills are paid.

No doubt Tasekowill be back with another attemptto mine in such a way as to “minimize impact to the environment.” Their consultants have their job cut out for them. Maybe all it will take is filter pressed tailings placed in a dry stack. AMECknows how to do that. Give them a call, Taseko.