The long anticipated Report of the Federal Review Panel (the
"Report") on Taseko Mines Ltd.'s
proposed Prosperity Gold-Copper Mine Project (the
"Project") was released last week,
concluding that the Project would result in significant adverse
environmental effects, but falling short of recommending that the
federal cabinet reject the Project.
The proposed Project would include an open pit mine, 125km of
new transmission lines, an onsite mill, a new site access road and
fish compensation works – a man-made lake to be called
Prosperity Lake. The works would be located 125km southwest of
Williams Lake, B.C., within the undeveloped Teztan Yeqox (Fish
The Project was referred by Fisheries and Oceans Canada to the
Minister of Environment (the "Minister")
under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act for a
panel review, which commenced in early 2009. A key issue for
Fisheries and Oceans Canada was the Project's proposed use of
lakes within the Teztan Yeqox watershed as storage areas for
tailings and waste rock. The British Columbia Environmental
Assessment Office undertook a separate but coordinated review,
finding that the significant adverse environmental effect of the
Project on fish and fish habitat was justified in the
circumstances. The federal review panel (the "Review
Panel") conducted 30 days of public hearings in ten
communities impacted by the Project, including the Tsilhqot'in
and Secwepemc First Nations, who both expressed opposition to the
Conclusions of the Review Panel
The Review Panel concluded that the Project would result in
significant adverse environmental effects in four key areas: (i)
fish and fish habitat; (ii) navigation; (iii) current and
traditional uses of land and resources by First Nations; and (iv)
existing and potential Aboriginal rights and title. However, the
Review Panel made no explicit recommendations to the federal
cabinet to approve or reject the Project.
The Project would result in the destruction of approximately
90,000 rainbow trout in the Teztan Yeqox watershed. Taseko's
proposed mitigation measure – the creation of Prosperity
Lake – would provide habitat for 20,000 rainbow trout.
The Review Panel was not satisfied that the fish in Prosperity Lake
would be safe for consumption. The Report also states that the
Review Panel received no information regarding the potential for
success in creating a self-sustaining ecosystem centred around the
With respect to effects on navigation, Transport Canada
expressed concerns that Prosperity Lake would not fully mitigate
the loss of fishing and recreation facilities at Fish Lake.
The Review Panel concluded that the Project site is currently
used by local First Nations for hunting and fishing, as well as
ceremonial and spiritual activities. The Review Panel found that
Taseko could not mitigate impacts on the cultural significance and
spiritual value of the area. Further, the Project is within an area
identified in Tsilhqot'in Nation v. British Columbia,
2007 BCSC 1700, in which the Tsilhqot'in First Nation has an
established Aboriginal right to hunt and trap. The Review Panel
found that Taseko offered no specific compensation to offset the
loss to the Tsilhqot'in of these rights.
A further concern to the Review Panel was the impact of the
Project on the local grizzly bear population. Grizzlies are
currently classified as a threatened species under the Species
at Risk Act. Though Taseko proposed mitigation measures such
as a policy of non-lethal approaches to resolving bear incidents,
the Review Panel concluded these mitigation measures would not
reduce the continued fragmentation of grizzly habitat.
The Review Panel did not reach a conclusion on the economic
benefits of the Project, as its Terms of Reference limited it to
considering only the socio-economic effects of the changes the
Project would make on the environment. However, the Review Panel
did note that Taseko estimated the Project would generate 275 jobs
per year in its construction and operation phases and 600 indirect
jobs during its 20 year operating life. Taskeo further indicated
that the Project would include $200 million in spending in the
local economy over the course of the Project and estimated that
government revenues generated from the Project would be $30 million
The federal cabinet has 60 days from the release of the Report
to determine whether to issue the applicable approvals for the
Project. Cabinet's decision, and the manner in which it weighs
environmental, Aboriginal and economic interests, will be of
interest to all mining companies operating in Canada.
Ontario's Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change continues to roll out its Climate Change Action Plan with its proposed GHG guide for projects that are subject to the province's Environmental Assessment Act.
The Imperial Oil refinery pled guilty to one offence for discharging a contaminant, coker stabilizer, thermocracked gas, into the natural environment causing an adverse effect and was fined $650,000...
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