Hitherto I have refrained from commenting on the controversy swirling around Taseko’s BC New Prosperity Mine. A number of reasons for avoiding a blog posting on the topic. First, I know nothing of the issues—I did take up Taseko’s offer to interview their engineers, but never got a reply to my email taking up their offer. Second, I work with a guy who has a cabin in the area and hence a definitive opinion on the matter: NIMBY.
Now that the Federal government has rejected the proposed mine for the second time and it seems all is said that can be said, let me add a blogger’s last words. Not that these will be my last blog words. For what it is worth, this is posting number 1,900 on this blog. I intend to make 2,000 this year. Imagine how thick a book that would be. Who would read it? Seven years of my opinions on mining.
Today I read all that is new that I could find on the story—not much that is intelligent or informative. The journalists are baffled; the company vows to plunder on.
These are the questions that arise in my mind on reading today’s materials:
The Liner: As I understand it, the rejection is based on an erroneous analysis of the liner. It is claimed that if the correct analysis were used it would prove no impact. Now today I have dealt with young, prejudiced scientists who suppressed the truth because of their personal biases. I am no stranger to the young who obfuscate in the interests of their dreams, prejudices, and fears. So, is today’s decision based on the erroneous groundwater modeling—or did they update the model and get the same answer?
The Local Economy: Seems the mine would have brought local prosperity—hence its name. What I want to know is what is the source of income to the local Indians (I am American, so I use the proud term applied there; as a Canadian, I shudder at the Aboriginal word—in South Africa when I was growing up this was a terrible insult.)? Do they really make a living from the land—fishing the subject lake and hunting the innocent young deer wondering the woods? Or do they…no they could surely not… rely on handouts from the same federal government? If they live off honest taxpayer money, then I suggest we demand cessation of my money to them…let them eat their own cake. Or develop a mine.
BC’s Legal Status. The BC government likes the project and wants it to proceed. Could that beautiful lady in Victoria simple claim state’s/provincial rights and let it proceed? I cannot imagine a contingent of feds armed to the teeth come to arrest her or imprison the miners. Actually the bigger question is why does the federal government have a say in what is essentially a provincial issue? How did this prerogative slip through the cracks? I mean if that pretty lady in Quebec can ban religious garb in hospitals, why can BC not make its own decisions regarding prosperity?
The Sanctity of One Lake: Fodder for critics. There are so many lakes in BC. It seems every one is sacred to somebody. Damn it, the pond up the road is sacred to me. But as we have just seen in Arizona, religion is a terrible basis for making rational decisions. Religion is supposed to be about your relationship with your God. For god’s sake let us keep your religion and your god out of my bedroom, out of my lake, out of my living, out of my rational debate & discourse. Or would those Indians deny me access to their land, like those legislators in Arizona because of who I am, which I can guarantee is not good by the standards of their religion.
Tradition. I was admittedly brought up in a place of no historical tradition—other than a hatred of the English who took the land and the mines. I was brought up to believe in progress. Not a bad Western tradition. Of course the mines to which I owe my upbringing, education, profession, and life happiness, fucked up the environment according to some. Maybe there is a time and place to put the emphasis on giving opportunities to the young; even if it be at the expense of the old, who like my grandmothers spent their old ages fuming against the English.
Enough. I have written enough to offend almost everyone. This is but the 1,900th time of so doing. The SME will still not acknowledge me for what I wrote five years ago about them. See this link. So maybe you will be Christian and forgive me now? Or at least comment.
PS. One of the problems in writing so much for so long, is that you forget what you wrote. In thinking of ways to close this piece I did a search of this blog and came across the following that I wrote in 2010:
If you live in British Columbia 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 of the use of Fish Lake for the mine tailings. The British Columbia provincial government had approved the 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 vigorously debated. 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 of the 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 relying on 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 stopping the mine, including this one:
The Project would result in the inability of the fisheries resource in the Teztan Yeqox (Fish Creek) watershed and the South Chilcotin grizzly bear population to meet the needs of present and future generations.
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 of the Williams case:
- The Tsilhqot’in people have aboriginal rights, including the right to trade furs to obtain a moderate livelihood, throughout the Claim Area.
- British Columbia’s Forest Act does not apply within Aboriginal title lands.
- British Columbia has infringed the Aboriginal rights and title of the Tsilhqot’in people, and has no justification for doing so.
- 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.
- 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 for the 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 should not 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, including the notorious EIS and a list of the consultants involved. Hope their bills are paid.
No doubt Taseko will be back with another attempt to 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. AMEC knows how to do that. Give them a call, Taseko.
PS: Here is a cut&paste from miningwatch. I copy in full as the story confirms what I have heard said in casual conversations around town. Appears to have been written by Tony Pearse.
The Sun’s editorial of Nov. 5 slamming the federal decision to reject the Prosperity mine reveals a lack of understanding of the relevant facts. The editorial states: “The government of the day could have saved everyone involved on both sides of the project much time, money and angst by saying no” 17 years ago when Prosperity was first proposed. Well, the government of the day said exactly that. In fact, three successive federal fisheries ministers from 1995 onward notified both the province and the company, Taseko Mines Ltd., that a project involving the loss of Fish Lake (called Teztan Biny by the Tsilhqot’in First Nation) was not open for discussion.
Taseko knew as early as 1995 that destroying the lake was out, but continued to push its original proposal without developing a real alternative that might have saved the lake. In 2007, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s new fisheries minister, Loyola Hearne, reversed the federal position and allowed the project to move forward into the federal assessment process. If, as the editorial stated, Taseko did spend as much as $100 million in exploration, then it did this at tremendous risk to its investors knowing that the federal government through all those years was opposed to the sacrifice of the lake.
As for the provincial approval of the project, by all accounts that was a flawed and politically driven decision. The provincial assessment didn’t cover half the issues that the federal panel did, nor did it review the issues it did consider as rigorously as did the federal panel. In addition, there was virtually unanimous opposition to the project in the closest and most affected communities — something not considered in the provincial decision. The federal process comprised an independent panel of professionals with experience in environmental assessment who heard evidence from many interveners and technical experts, and where cross examination of the company and expert evidence was allowed so as to better establish the facts. The provincial process had none of this. It was done apart from any meaningful public scrutiny and it finessed several serious technical issues raised by provincial regional regulators. In the end, the Environmental Assessment Office concluded simply that the loss of the lake was justified because the alleged economic benefits outweighed the single adverse impact it identified.
But the British Columbia process never examined the economic feasibility of the project, and had no capability to make this judgment call. It simply accepted without question the company’s promotional numbers about the presumed economic benefits to the province, and wrote the impacts off on that basis. These are the same numbers used in The Sun’s editorial. Ministers, indeed, have a right to make those trade-offs in their decision-making, but environmental assessors do not. Especially when the economic feasibility is never a part of its review. The federal panel’s report discusses expert evidence brought before it that seriously undermines the company’s economic predictions, to the point where subsidies to the company’s operation might be required to make it profitable. The editorial complained about the length of time required for government reviews of mine projects, noting that mining companies will be running off to Chile or Indonesia because of the more lax regulatory requirements there. A little research would have revealed that it was Taseko that requested the uncoupling of what had originally been proposed as a joint federal-provincial review. As a result, the project went through two reviews, instead of one. B.C.’s was speedier since it was much less rigorous and demanding, but the federal process still had to play out. Taseko had only itself to blame for the duplicate processes.
Finally, it is hardly responsible of The Sun to be suggesting that mining companies run off to Third World countries to exploit their resources because their environmental reviews are less restrictive.