An NDP MLA is blasting Premier Christy Clark for her staunch support of a controversial B.C. gold and copper mine project that the federal government has twice blocked on environmental grounds.
Opposition environment critic Spencer Chandra Herbert told the Georgia Straight that the latest rejection of Taseko Mines Limited's proposed New Prosperity mine, southwest of Williams Lake, is a "victory for science".
"For me, the B.C. government being further to the anti-environment extreme than Stephen Harper says a lot," the Vancouver-West End MLA said today (February 27) by phone. "Mining projects can be done that are benign to the environment and that have local First Nations and community support, and there are many of them across B.C. This wasn't one of them. It was clear from the first time it was rejected."
On Wednesday (February 26), Minister of the Environment Leona Aglukkaq announced her decision, which states that the mine is "likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects".
"The Government of Canada will make decisions based on the best available scientific evidence while balancing economic and environmental considerations," Aglukkaq said in a news release. "The Government will continue to make responsible resource development a priority and invites the submission of another proposal that addresses the Government's concerns."
Taseko's original Prosperity proposal received an environmental assessment certificate from the B.C. government in 2010. But the project was blocked that same year by the federal government due to environmental concerns.
In 2011, Taseko submitted to the federal government a revised application, which spared Fish Lake from being, as initially proposed, turned into a reservoir for toxic mine-waste rock.
First Nations and environmentalists are cheering the latest setback for Taseko.
"We are celebrating this decision to reject once again this terrible project, which threatened our pristine waters, fish and Aboriginal rights," Chief Joe Alphonse, tribal chair of the Tsilhqot’in National Government, said today in a news release. "We commend the federal government for not bowing to industry lobbying and instead respecting the science and the independent process which came to the conclusion that this project would have devastating impacts on the environment and our Nation’s ability to practice our rights in a sacred spiritual site. These impacts could not be mitigated."
However, the Wilderness Committee noted that the minister has left the door open to a third Prosperity proposal from Taseko.
“There’s no right way to do what’s wrong. Taseko’s mining plans have now been turned down twice by the federal government, and what we need now is to see these plans kicked to the curb – once and for all,” Joe Foy, national campaign director for the Wilderness Committee, said today in a news release.
Chandra Herbert pointed out that Clark responded to the first rejection of the mine by calling it a "dumb decision". He's not sure the second rejection, even though such a thing is rare, is the end of the story.
"I can't predict that," Chandra Herbert said. "The company still seems to be quite combative over it. But, as far as the license to proceed, the local First Nations are not onside and the science isn't onside, so you'd think at that point—at least as it's being presented now—it would be over."