November 14, 2011
Billion dollar gold and copper mine will get a second review
Plans for the construction of a billion dollar gold and copper mine in central B.C., have been given a second chance by federal regulators after they rejected the original proposal last year.
“While we need to develop a better understanding of the specifics of the panel review, the timeline evidences a significant commitment by CEAA (The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency) to work effectively with us in this process,” said Taseko’s president & CEO Russell Hallbauer.
“It is our sincere desire that New Prosperity (Mine) moves through the panel review process in this time frame and that the benefits of the project begin to be realized by the country, the province, the local communities and Aboriginals in the coming years.”
The assessment agency ruled on Nov. 7 that the New Prosperity Gold-Copper Mine project near Williams Lake, B.C., will undergo a new environmental assessment.
The agency will conduct a panel process, which includes holding public hearings and preparing its report. The entire process is expected to take no more than 12 months to complete. The federal government rejected the original proposal for the mine in October 2010. It said that the project would have significant adverse environment impacts.
For this reason, the federal environment minister instructed the agency to assess whether or not the new proposal addresses the environmental effects identified in the original assessment.
He also directed the CEAA to ensure that information obtained during the previous environmental assessment is used as much as possible to ensure a timely decision.
Leaders of the Tsilhqot’in Nation are disappointed by the decision to go ahead with another review. “The mine proponents told us last year, when they expected the project to be approved, that we should shut up and accept it,” said Tsilhqot’in National Government Tribal Chair Chief Joe Alphonse.
“Well, it was rejected and now they should take their own advice and accept this project is a lost cause. Canada’s First Nations are united against this resubmission.”
The Tsilhqot’in people are angry about the new review process, because they believe the revised proposal is just a repackaged version of a previous option.
“We can only hope this review is based on a technicality and that it will be dealt with quickly through a transparent public review by the same panel that studied the first project,” said Bev Sellars, Chief of the Xat’sull (Soda Creek) First Nation and chair of B.C.’s First Nations Women Advocating Responsible Mining (FNWARM).
The proposed Prosperity Mine project is a large open pit gold-copper mine, located about 125-km south west of Williams Lake. It is the largest undeveloped gold-copper deposit in Canada and the 7th largest in the world.
The project involves the construction of an onsite mill and support infrastructure, a tailings storage facility, a 125-km long electrical transmission line, explosives factory and magazine, and an access road.
A number of environmental concerns were brought to light during the first review.
The original plan would have drained Fish Lake and used it as a tailings pond for chemical waste from the mining process.
This would have resulted in the destruction of Fish Lake, Little Fish Lake and portions of Fish Creek.
The proposed project was expected have an adverse effect on fish and fish habitat, on grizzly bears, on navigation, on the use of lands and resources for traditional purposes by First Nations and on established Tsilhqot’in Aboriginal rights.
The new proposal claims it will preserve Fish Lake by moving the tailings pond a couple of kilometres away and containing all mine operations and related components within a single watershed.
However, the original review revealed that water quality in Fish Lake will become equivalent to the water quality in the tailings facility, when they are located so close to each other.
The original proposal had a total capital cost of $800 million, but development design for New Prosperity is predicated on higher long term prices for both copper and gold, which results in a direct increase in capital costs of $200 million
The project is expected to generate 375 jobs per year, during the two year construction period.
The mine would contribute about $340 million to provincial gross domestic product annually, $400 million in provincial revenue and $43 million to local and regional governments.
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