A wildlife biologist with concerns that the proposed New Prosperity mine could result in up to seven grizzly bear deaths annually was "overly pessimistic and unconstructive," the company behind the development told a federal review panel on Wednesday.
In a written submission to a Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency panel, Taesko Mines criticized the information provided by Wayne McCrory as "unfocused, frequently speculative and distracting with regard to identifying the key issues for grizzly bears with respect to the proposed mine."
In evidence presented on behalf of the Friends of Nemaiah Valley, McCrory said the planned open pit copper and gold mine 125 km south of Williams Lake could result in the death of between four and seven grizzly bears a year for the projected 35-year life of the mine.
McCrory's analysis predicted that one to two bears will be killed each year at the mine site itself, either due to intentional euthanizing of nuisance bears or bears coming in contact with site operations.
"Given the high degree of overlap of grizzly bears with the mine site, no amount of mitigation will be able to stop some grizzly bears being killed," McCrory wrote.
The biologist estimated another two or three a year will be killed as a result of collisions on the the road leading to the mine.
According to McCrory, a further one or two a year will be killed as a result of increased human activity along the proposed power line corridor. With more people accessing the area, he said bears will be killed either in self defence or by illegal hunters.
Taseko shot back with a nine-page rebuttal on Wednesday, the final day new evidence could be put on the record in advance of Friday's closing argument.
The company said its mitigation measures, which include reducing the presence of bear attractants and training staff of bear aware techniques, will reduce the number of bears that come in contact with its operation and thereby reduce the risk of mortality.
"Taseko is confident in our mitigation measures as they are described in our filed evidence even though some of the measures will not be easy to implement," the company wrote.
The company also took issue with the number of off-site bear deaths McCrory predicts. It called the estimates of two to three fatal collisions a year "speculative" and said access management plans will limit the number of people who are able to get to its power corridor.
The three-member panel wrapped up its community hearings with First Nations in the Cariboo on Wednesday. After Friday's final arguments it will have 70 days to make a recommendation to the federal government.