The Nak'azdli First Nation said Thursday they are seeking a judicial review from the Federal Court of Canada of the federal government's recent environmental approval of Terrane Metal's proposed $917-million Mount Milligan mine.
The Nak'azdli have already filed a similar action in B.C. Supreme Court against the B.C. government set to be heard this spring in Vancouver.
The Nak'azdli contend they have not been properly consulted on the approval of the gold and copper mine in northern B.C., which the First Nation says will harm the environment.
Both levels of government concluded the project is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects.
The proposed mine is located 155 kilometres northwest of Prince George, and has been touted as providing economic benefits to communities in the Northern Interior.
"The proposed mine is within Nak'azdli territory and the proposed mine site and surrounding areas is clearly utilized by Nak'azdli members, and has been since time immemorial," said Nak'azdli chief Fred Sam.
"The manner in which Canada has dealt with the Nak'azdli throughout the environmental assessment review process has not upheld the honour of the Crown," said Sam.
The Nak'azdli First Nation criticized the project for destroying much of King Richard and Alpine creeks, and creating two open pits and a mine site with a foot-print of 367 hectares, as well as a tailings pond of 813 hectares.
That will eliminate an area of relatively untouched land and water that is three times the size of Stanley Park in Vancouver, noted Sam, whose community is located adjacent to the forest-based community of Fort St. James.
Terrane Metals has argued it has reduced the foot print of the mine, and listened to the concerns of First Nations.
Terrane Metals official Glen Wonders said Thursday there was little the company could say until it viewed the court filing.
Wonders said the court actions would not stop the company from moving the project forward. "We are going to continue on to complete the permitting processes. We're going to do that in a respectful manner, and if they wish to challenge on the basis of any of these approvals, it's their right to do so," said Wonders.
The Vancouver-based mining company is targeting a construction start next July or August.
The federal government's approval was based on the conclusions of a 178-page comprehensive study report which concluded the mine would not cause significant adverse environmental impacts. The decision was also based on public comment on the report, federal agencies' comments, and the proposed mitigation measures and follow-up program.
While the federal review concluded that the project will likely cause harm to fish habitat due to alterations to several creeks in the mine area, the company's plan to mitigate the harm means it is likely the productive capacity of the fish habitat will be maintained.