Taseko Mines Ltd. has submitted its latest Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to the federal panel overseeing the environmental assessment of big industrial projects. This is Taseko's encore attempt to convince the panel to allow their New Prosperity Mine proposal to go forward near Williams Lake. That panel has turned down past Taseko applications for the project.
"We are confident that the New Prosperity EIS represents a mine development plan that delivers considerable economic value to Canadians, while employing proven industry-leading engineering and environmental management techniques for which the British Columbia mining industry has become world-renowned," said company president Russell Hallbauer.
"The EIS document, which represents the core of material to be considered by the review panel, explains in precise scientific detail every aspect of the company's plans to manage and minimize environmental impacts during the construction, operation, and closure of the proposed $1.1 billion gold-copper mine which would take two years to build and would operate for 20 years," he said.
Taseko's other local play, the Gibralter Mine near Quesnel, this week won a provincial award for its environmental practices, but the New Prosperity proposal has a number of challenges. Opponents of the mine are concerned about Taseko's plans to use nearby Fish Lake (or Teztan Biny) for industrial purposes. Also, the First Nation presiding over the New Prosperity's territory is so far staunchly opposed to the mine.
The Tsilhqot'in Nation began legal opposition to the project in 2009. They have argued since then that no amount of immediate economic success will be enough to offset the environmental degradation. They also stress that they have dominion over the area and attempts to drive a mine forward is an act of corporate and federal/provincial aggression.
"If the Canadian government wants to reduce its deficit, then cancel this process. It will prevent the frivolous spending of tax money consistently being wasted to review a mine that will not go through," said Tsilhqot'in Chief Joe Alphonse in a statement last year. He also said "[Taseko's] attempts to revive the mine proposal without the Tsilhqotin Nations input or consent is a clear signal that the company does not understand Tsilhqotin rights and culture, and lacks respect for the environment and our communities."
The Taseko position has been openly supported by the provincial government in the past and many in the Cariboo are hoping for a boost in employment and economic activity.
The Tsilhqot'in position has been supported by the The Assembly of First Nations chiefs as well as the mining watchdog group MiningWatch Canada who issued a statement a week ago urging potential investors in Taseko to question the project more deeply.
"New Prosperity does not have and is unlikely to get a social license to operate from the affected First Nations communities and Aboriginal governments," said the MiningWatch Canada statement.
"We are committed to the responsible development of New Prosperity and will invest an additional $300 million to ensure the protection of Fish Lake and address concerns raised by the previous federal review panel in 2010," said Hallbauer.
Taseko Mines has posted a Water Management Video and an Executive Summary of the project on their website (newprosperityproject.ca) to tell the company's side of the latest environmental assessment application.