Federal Panel report warns of “high magnitude, long term, irreversible” impacts on the environment and on Tsilhqot’in people and culture
July 5, 2010, Williams Lake – The Tsilhqot’in National Government denounces the BC Minister of Mines’ call for federal approval of the proposed Prosperity project in the face of a report from an independent panel warning that the open-pit copper and gold mine would have “significant adverse effects” on the environment and “high magnitude, long term, irreversible” impacts on Tsilhqot’in people and culture.
Provincial Minister Bill Bennett was quoted in Saturday’s Globe and Mail as stating “We frankly would like to see this project happen”. The Mining Association of British Columbia also called for federal approval of the project – on the same day that the federal Panel issued a strongly worded environmental assessment report confirming that the mine would permanently destroy “an important cultural and spiritual area … currently used by the Tsilhqot’in for traditional purposes”, lead to “long term” impacts on the physical and mental health of the Tsilhqot’in communities, and create “high magnitude, long-term and irreversible” effects on fish and fish habitat that cannot be mitigated.
“The Province and the Mining Association often talk about their so-called commitment to responsible mining”, said Chief Marilyn Baptiste, of the Xeni Gwet’in community of the Tsilhqot’in Nation. “This was an opportunity to walk the talk, and to admit that some projects are unsustainable and should not go forward. The Panel confirmed that this mine would permanently destroy an area that is a place of worship for our people, a cultural school for our children, and a bread basket that has fed our people for centuries. And the very same day, the Minister and the Mining Association are calling for approval of the Project at any cost.”
It is highly unusual for a federal review panel to find that a proposed project will have significant environmental impacts. “When you see these conclusions from a federal Panel, it really sounds the alarm”, said Jay Nelson, a lawyer for the TNG. “In the almost 20 years of federal environmental assessments, covering dozens and dozens of major projects, only two previous Panels have found significant adverse environmental impacts – and in both cases the projects were rejected by the federal government. To put this in perspective, all of the major oil sands projects in northern Alberta have been approved based on findings of no significant adverse impacts on the environment after mitigation.”
“The BC environmental assessment that the mine company is relying on was a rubber-stamp process,” said Chief Joe Alphonse, Tribal Chair of the TNG. “We’re encouraged to see that this independent federal assessment has some integrity. The federal Panel confirmed how important Teztan Biny and Nabas are for the survival of our Tsilhqot’in culture. First Nations everywhere are watching to see how much our cultural survival really means to the government at the end of the day. This is a line that should not be crossed”.
In its report, the federal Panel concluded that the project would result in “significant adverse environmental effects” on fisheries, threatened grizzly bear populations, on First Nations’ traditional use and cultural heritage in the area, and on proven and asserted Aboriginal rights. The Panel confirmed that “the island in Teztan Biny (Fish Lake), which would be destroyed by the mine waste storage area, is a place of spiritual power and healing for the Tsilhqot’in”.
For more information, please contact:
Chief Joe Alphonse
Tsilhqot’in National Government
Sean Nixon or Jay Nelson
Woodward & Company Lawyers LLP
Click here for the Backgrounder: Prosperity Mine Review Panel Assessment