Taseko's revised Prosperity Mine project would save Fish Lake but destroy Little Fish Lake

Taseko Mines news release failed to mention smaller fish-bearing body of water

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      A revised application for the rejected $800-million Prosperity Mine still calls for the destruction of one of the two fish-bearing mountain lakes originally scheduled for eradication, the Georgia Straight has learned.

      A February 21 news release by proponent Taseko Mines Limited stated that its new plan for the controversial B.C. gold and copper project, which was blocked after a negative federal review-panel decision last year, “greatly reduces environmental impacts, [and] preserves Fish Lake and its aquatics”.

      The release did not mention Little Fish Lake.

      The February 21 bulletin quoted Taseko president and CEO Russell Hallbauer as saying: “Our initiative to preserve Fish Lake and accommodate the concerns of the Federal Government and First Nations communities is a major commitment and undertaking by Taseko.”

      Taseko did not divulge details of the revised application. The company stated in its release that the new plan was made possible because “new longer-term price projections emerged which indicated both copper and gold prices would be much higher” than when the mine was originally proposed.

      Extra costs related to the preservation of Fish Lake would add $300 million to the original estimate, the company said.

      However, a spokesperson for Taseko, Brian Battison, told the Straight that unlike Fish Lake, Little Fish Lake would not be spared if the new proposal got a green light from Ottawa. “It is part of the tailings facility, as in the original project,” he said of the smaller lake in a March 4 phone interview.

      Battison reiterated that saving Fish Lake originally “was not a viable option because it was not economic at the time of the review”. He said he was confident that increased gold and copper values will “sustain themselves above the prices that this project is not economic”.

      He also said: “This proposal addresses the concerns that the First Nations had about the project.”

      Representatives of the Tsilhqot’in National Government were not immediately available for comment on the fate of Little Fish Lake, which contains rainbow trout but in fewer numbers than Fish Lake.

      George Heyman, executive director of Sierra Club B.C., told the Straight by phone that he knew nothing of the new Taseko plan other than it did not involve draining the larger lake. Of the decision to destroy Little Fish Lake, he said: “That’s news to me. That’s the first detail I’ve had of the new proposal.”

      The national campaign director for the Wilderness Committee, Joe Foy, said Taseko has shown it cannot be trusted.

      “They say that the prices for copper and gold have gone up”¦therefore the company can spend more money on environmental mitigation,” Foy told the Straight. “Therefore they don’t have to use Fish Lake as a dump”¦.It tells me they had a [alternative] project in their back pocket [from the start]. Now, what does that do to trust?”

      Heyman expressed similar thoughts: “I don’t think you develop an alternative plan”¦in a couple of months [after the initial rejection]. What it says to me is that if they could have gotten approval for the first plan, they would have taken it and pocketed the profits.”

      Andrew Gage, staff counsel for West Coast Environmental Law, wasn’t taken aback at the news that Little Fish Lake will be wiped out if the new proposal goes ahead. “It would have been surprising if they didn’t [destroy it],” he said from Victoria.

      “There was nothing in that [February 21 Taseko] statement that said they would save Little Fish Lake. It’s not a complete surprise. They viewed Fish Lake as the big problem.”

      Gage said it will be interesting to finally see details of the application. “I still want to see how this is different from the other proposals. Will Fish Lake be destroyed down the road?”

      The federal government acknowledged receipt of Taseko’s new project description in a February 22 statement that noted, in part: “As we have said in the past, if the proponent is interested in proceeding in a way that would respect the environmental concerns that were raised by the assessment, then we are open to assessing that proposal.”

      In a February 25 letter from the Tsilhqot’in National Government to the federal ministers of environment, fisheries and oceans, natural resources, transport, and Indian and northern affairs, as well as to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, Native representatives demanded consultation from Ottawa about Taseko’s revised application and all details therein.

      Battison said the particulars of the plan will be revealed by the government. “It will be posted publicly by CEAA once it is deemed complete in terms of its content. They are going to review it”¦There is no time frame around that”

      The February 25 TNG letter also stated: “It is disingenuous of Taseko to present this as a ”˜quick fix’ solution to the myriad problems with its rejected project. Even if Taseko were to preserve Fish Lake (and the viability of this proposal remains uncertain), it still would not address the host of significant environmental impacts identified by the [federal review] Panel in its report, including impacts on Aboriginal use of lands and resources for traditional purposes, on cultural heritage, on Aboriginal rights and title, and on threatened grizzly bear populations. Fisheries issues would almost certainly persist.”

      Taseko’s proposed project, an open-pit mine to be sited about 125 kilometres west of Williams Lake, gained approval through the B.C. government’s environmental-assessment process in January 2010.

      The provincial certificate was awarded despite widespread opposition from First Nations and environmental groups and Taseko’s acknowledged intent to drain Fish Lake and destroy Little Fish Lake through its use as a toxic tailings reservoir.

      On November 2, 2010, the federal cabinet turned down the Prosperity application after a negative review by a Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency panel, which cited “significant adverse environmental effects”. Of particular concern to the panel were fish and fish habitats, future grizzly-bear populations, and established and potential aboriginal rights and title.

      Comments

      19 Comments

      RonS

      Mar 6, 2011 at 6:24am

      So really nothing has changed. Pollute the environment but hide the news so perhaps no one will notice. These people are scum.

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      tim.

      Mar 6, 2011 at 9:45am

      taseko can't be trusted. originally, they were adamant that fish lake had to be destroyed in order for the project to go ahead. now they're saying they won't.

      the reality is, they haven't comprehensively studied alternatives and taseko is willing to try and ram the project through at all cost. for this reason, they should be denied once again.

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      Ken Lawson

      Mar 6, 2011 at 11:25am

      I have had it with these wing nut environmentalists, that are freeloaders on the system and welfare, this project must go ahead whether you like it or not, it provides jobs, one little lake out of thousands in BC, wake up fools, we also need to get going on oil and gas exploration in the The Georgia Strait.

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      @KenLawson

      Mar 6, 2011 at 12:29pm

      I'm so sorry that you are infected with ignorance.

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      AtroutFisherman

      Mar 6, 2011 at 12:56pm

      go hug another tree, there are enough for all to go around, since lumbering is not taking them down anymore. This is a great company with a more than considerate concern for all people involved in any way, for many many years now. Share in the PROSPERITY, buy Taseko shares and get real with the current economic devastation taking place as we speak. Look at Australia, learn how to enjoy prosperity of natural resources and stop being unreasonable. You sound like a bunch of housewives when you argue the argument of "but, but, but, they SAID this in 1996....."
      I vote a STRONG YES for PROSPERITY.

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      A Horror in the making

      Mar 6, 2011 at 2:13pm

      Destroying the Sun God and destroying the water and wildlife will anger the spirits and bring bad luck area. I can see it all now a mining cave in trapping the miners for months and months. There will be an elaborate rescue only no one makes it out alive.... scared land....I'm not the expert Steven King is.
      If I got it right and I'm pretty certain God is in the river, the land and in the stream and the people must honor this connection with respect and ceremony and gifts. Trying to convince the "First Nations" people killing fish and destroying the waters and contaminating their land is a "God thing" is a hard sell.
      Jack Layton commented on the shipping of whole logs to China at a real expense. China is going to build homes for their poor chinese with BC soft lumber and there is "plenty of lumber" and money for "First Nations" I'm sure. A national housing strategy needs to be in the plan only with a twist with homes that have plenty to still offer will not end up in the dump.

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      Rusty D'Arcy

      Mar 6, 2011 at 4:07pm

      Everyone keeps pointing at the revised project as if the increased spending is part of some secret agenda.
      Wake up folks. When they first designed this and put it forward in 2005 gold and copper prices were not that high.
      Could you have predicted today's economy and copper and gold prices? Good for you! You obviously bought all kinds of stock and prospered.
      For the rest of us who had no crystal ball, this revised offer shows that by coming back to the table willing to spend more to save the big lake these guys are acting transparently and with integrity. They had no idea gold and copper would go to where it is now.
      The EA process and all the protests just add time to what it takes to get a project opened. They've been at it for nearly 20 years and spend $100 million.
      They operate Gibraltar in the area. Its not like they're some foreign multi-national just here to rape the land and drain the profits out of the country.
      This is a resource that belongs to ALL CANADIANS and ALL Canadians should be able to share that wealth.

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      Steve Y

      Mar 6, 2011 at 5:39pm

      I don't mind not going ahead with prosperity mine, site C, the oil export pipeline, the jumbo ski hill .. I love spirit bears too. but what I don't hear from the opponents of all these projects is what we are going to do to replace those jobs. It is one thing to take somebody's job away from them, it is another to suggest alternative ways we can prosper as a province.

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      mining engineer

      Mar 6, 2011 at 10:06pm

      Build a tailings pond and save the lake. This is crap.

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      RonS

      Mar 6, 2011 at 10:07pm

      Steve Y there isn't any jobs at Fish Lake yet. What are you talking about? Think about this you pro development at any cost idiots, why not develope green technology? I bet that would more than replace many lost jobs and make BC a leader in green technology.

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