Here is a fascinating interaction on Taskeo’s Prosperity Mine. I repeat in full from an e-mail from MiningWatch. I trust they are OK with this.
Saturday, 11 December 2010 15:45
When the federal government announced its rejection of the Prosperity Mine proposal, UBC professor of Mining Engineering, John A. Meech, P.Eng., Ph.D. and Director of CERM3 (The Centre for Environmental Research in Minerals, Metals and Materials) sent a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, expressing his displeasure with the decision.
George Colgate, a mechanical engineer in Vancouver during the 1960s before choosing a different career path as a cowboy, rancher, band manager, and founder of Xeni Gwet’in Enterprises, responded to Meech’s letter. Colgate, a 34-year resident of Nemiah Valley, sent a copy of his letter to Prime Minister Harper, the federal environment minister, and to the Dean of Applied Sciences at UBC.
Dear Prime Minister Harper:
I am shocked and appalled that your government would reject the Prosperity Mine project. This is indeed a sad day for British Columbia and for the Canadian Mining Industry.
My letter to you on July 5th regarding the Prosperity Mine deliberately avoided discussing the process by which your government chooses to make its decisions on these issues since I was hopeful that you and your colleagues would weight the specifics of the case rather than succumb to emotion and rhetoric.
Now I wish to express MY emotions about the issues and to share with you my views on the environmental review process – a lengthy and clumsy vehicle that does nothing but generate conflict in an environment of animosity and irrationality.
Something is terribly wrong in this country with respect to sharing power with First Nations. The process you are using deliberately pits one group (First Nations) against another (Mining Industry) and appears to be the new tactic being employed by NGOs and the regulators to the detriment of all sides with a preconceived concept about mine development of any kind.
There is really no opportunity for the two groups to find common ground. There is really no way for the companies to approach the First Nations in a rational, logical manner since all decision-making on revenue sharing and sensible balanced mine development must be done through two levels of governments – each of which have multiple agencies representing different contexts of the issues. And these agencies appear to approach the issues with preconceived notions about mining being something evil. No matter how much you may deny this, that is in fact what is projected by your bureaucrats and by the dialog and processes that you have put into place.
Our industry is put into the position of being the big, bad developers who destroy the land and rape and pillage the meek and poor when the reality is quite the opposite. The compensation plan for the demise of Fish Lake was more than reasonable in consideration of the significant benefits to the communities in the region with respect to the economy and job creation. Fish lake was not a significant contributor to the culture nor to the livelihood of First Nations in the region. Whereas the new lake planned would create a new industry for the locals to work in and contribute to society.
First Nations children could be given opportunities to move out of poverty and gain the necessary training to play positive roles in the future development of our country and become productive instead of having such a limited future.
What your decision does is transfer wealth to other regions of the world where environmental standards and regulations are significantly weaker than ours. You should be ashamed of yourselves. Not only does this transfer of wealth and pollution take place in an unregulated fashion, but you leave our own First Nations to exist in poverty for long into the future – although I am sure they will be at the table for a hand-out from your government when the need arises and we decide to feel sorry for our ancestors having brought smallpox to the west coast.
The mine environmental review process has been usurped by a bureaucracy out of control whose vested interest is to take as long as possible to arrive at a decision. Delay, obfuscate, lie, exaggerate – those are the fundamentals of the process.
The “testimony ” of the First Nations peoples, both old and young alike, was presented in an environment of “okay who is next?”, instead of allowing thoughtful questioning and discussion of what is the truth. One of the young Indians actually referred to Avatar, the block-buster movie of last year that presents miners in a very negative light as being exploitative of people and the land and only interested in the bottom-line. By your decision today, your government has now perpetuated that terrible myth, instead of educating society about how we all rely on mining fundamentally and sustainably.
Most of the elders talked about the past and lamented on the loss of their culture (which is not really true), yet no one mentioned how this project could provide new opportunities to provide training and assistance to the poverty and lack of hope that is a feature of all the reservations in this region. This is much more than simply a cultural thing in which some folks want us to return to the trees and live like we did hundreds of years ago. The smallpox their ancestors died from is now eradicated and will never happen again. Yet it was dragged up as a reason to reject the application. And that eradication took place because of education and knowledge gained over the years through careful scientific study and new technologies. That was a good thing and needs to be put into the context of what was happening hundreds of years ago, not used as an argument against development and upgrading today. Instead we proceed to apologize for something that is irrelevant today.
Nowhere in the review report could I find any positive reference to the significant strides taken by our industry in Canada to avoid the problems of the past, both environmentally and socially. The Canadian mining industry holds no candle to anywhere else in the world with respect to metal pollution standards and control and modern methods to deal with acid rock drainage. As someone who has studied mining and the environment for many years and has contributed to establishing new knowledge about the issues, I take great exception to how our industry is depicted in this review process.
The role of DFO (the Department of Fisheries and Oceans) has been ridiculous. They provided no testimony in the report about how this mine affects transportation through the interconnected lakes. In fact it was stated that because of lack of personnel and time, they had been unable to prepare their submission – perhaps it was supplied to cabinet at a later date, but I have been unable to find any significant evidence, just hearsay, that supported that conclusion.
You have lost my confidence in your government and party and I hereby withdraw my support for your party in the next election. Furthermore, I intend to tell others about how this decision was made and how wrong it is for the future welfare of British Columbia and Canada.
John A. Meech, P.Eng., Ph.D.
Dear Professor Meech,
I have recently read a letter you sent to Prime Minister Harper in regard to the Prosperity Mine decision. I write to you at this time as I too am “shocked and appalled” but not at the federal government.
I have lived in Nemiah Valley, adjacent to the site of the proposed Prosperity Mine and home of the Xeni Gwet’in First Nation, since 1976. My personal knowledge of the Prosperity Project consists of some minor contracts involving exploration, site cleanup and discourse with various technical personal involved in the development of this mine proposal. I have also spent several days before the commencement of the federal hearing studying the nine volumes of the Environmental Impact Statement of Taseko Mines Ltd in preparation for my presentation to the federal panel in Nemiah Valley. I also spent one week in Williams Lake attending the ‘technical hearing’ session of the Federal Review Panel.
In the discourse which I present below, I have assumed that you have studied the many controversial environment issues arising from these hearings and be, at least, as informed as I.
In your letter you state that it is”…a bad day for British Columbia and for the Canadian Mining Industry”. Although I do not necessarily disagree with this statement the reason for rejection must be placed where it belongs – with the mining industry in general and with Taseko Mines Ltd in particular. In the first place, this “… lengthy and clumsy vehicle that does nothing but generate conflict in an environment of animosity and irrationality”, was the specific choice of Taseko Mines and neither the choice of the federal government nor that of the First Nations. A ‘joint panel process’ was the original choice of process by all government bodies including the First Nations. It was the specific request of Taseko Mines that this process be abandoned in favour of the process that you so venomously condemn.
Your letter indicates your many qualifications in the field of mining engineering but nowhere in your credentials is any mention of expertise in the field of anthropology and yet most of your objections to the federal government decision are anthropological rather than technical. The real issue here is NOT anthropological but technical. The federal government’s decision to reject the proposal “as presented” was because of “serious adverse environmental effects”, and not because of aboriginal issues. Furthermore, for you to assert expertise in the complex relationship First Nations have with their traditional homelands is both pretentious and arrogant.
This type of response merely feeds the growing fire of First Nation scapegoating and actually disguises the root of the problem.
In your letter, you state “Our industry is put into the position of being the big, bad developers who destroy the land and rape and pillage the meek and poor when the reality is quite the opposite”.
Unfortunately, in too many cases, it is NOT “…quite the opposite.”
It is not mere perception that ‘your industry’ is an industry rife with environmental disasters and corruption – as confirmed by the recent environmental consequences in the Gulf, the Danube and the Tar Sands of northern Alberta. Yes, the extraction of the earth’s minerals by mining operations is essential for the economic and social well being of present day society but at the same time, society cannot afford the reckless mining industry practices of the past and which, exemplified in the Taseko Mines proposal, continue today.
Over the years, I have been told by prominent members of the mining community that sufficient regulations have been put in place to safeguard against the mining industries ‘sins of the past’. One of these safeguards involves the prospective mining company posting a bond sufficient to cover the cost of the project reclamation. But, at the time of the Federal Panel Hearings, Taseko Mines Ltd did not know the cost of the reclamation stage of their proposed project! Think about this. Taseko Mines Ltd produced an engineering feasibility study and the Provincial Government gave approval to a project in which the cost of the site reclamation was unknown!
You further state in your letter, “The compensation plan for the demise of Fish Lake was more than reasonable in consideration of the significant benefits to the communities in the region with respect to the economy and job creation.” The proposed “compensation plan” is the creation of ‘Prosperity Lake’, a lake intended to replace the existing Fish Lake and provide sustainable fish populations now and for future generations. The proposed water course intended to feed the Prosperity Lake spawning channel, however, flows from north to south counter to the natural water course gradient which is from south to north! In order for this ‘more than reasonable compensation plan’ to work, then, it will have to be maintained in perpetuity!
Moreover, 24 years after mine closure (this could be closer to 50 years if the mine life were to be extended from 20 to 33 years, a quite likely scenario) natural discharge from the site area will once again discharge into Fish Creek a tributary of the Taseko River which in turn is a tributary of the Fraser River. This natural discharge will now contain ‘probable’ toxic waste (‘probable’ being the middle ground between what the Taseko experts say to be ‘possible’ and what the TNG experts say to be ‘definite’) and will need treatment at an annual cost of 14 million dollars for a minimum period of 100 years!
It is unclear who will bear the cost of this treatment!
You further state that “What your decision does is transfer wealth to other regions of the world where “environmental standards and regulations are significantly weaker than ours”. This statement further exemplifies the irresponsibility of ‘your industry’ and points out a logical inconsistency in your objection. You imply on one hand, that without ‘environmental standards and regulations’ your ‘industry’ would act in a less environmentally responsible manner prevalent in “other regions of the world”. But, on the other hand, when our federal government invoked these same “environmental standards and regulations” in making its decision, you call “foul”.
“You should be ashamed of yourselves”, you say. But the real ‘shame’, Professor, rests with those in ‘your industry’ who continue to protect and advocate these environmentally insensitive industry standards, not with the federal government!
In the planning of any mining proposal and especially a proposal of the magnitude and ecological complexity as that proposed at Fish Lake, reclamation MUST be given the same weight as the removal and the processing of the ore itself. The mining industry is going to have to do a MUCH better job in the future than what they have done in the past in regard to the protection and reclamation of the environment. Environmental problems arising from projects in the present must NOT be passed on to future generations to resolve.
Responsible governments can no longer accept mining practices which lead to environmental catastrophes. The federal government in handing down its decision on the Prosperity Project did not turn it down outright; it turned it down “as it stands”. It has sent a clear message to Taseko Mines and hopefully the mining industry in general.
The federal government in making its decision need not be applauded nor condemned as it is the ONLY decision a RESPONSIBLE government of the 21st century could possibly make. Hopefully the UBC Department of Mining Engineering will also take up the slack and become a true cornerstone of the solution rather than to continue nourishing the root of the problem.
Yours sincerely hoping for a sustainable future,
Nemiah Valley, BC