Mine could endanger grizzly population, biologist warns – Vancouver Sun

Taseko Mines Ltd. accused of minimizing the impact of its Prosperity development in the Chilcotin

Byline: Larry Pynn

Development of the Prosperity gold-copper mine in the Chilcotin would not only destroy extensive fish habitat but would have a “significant impact” on the area’s threatened grizzly population, according to a bear biologist’s study submitted to a federal review panel.

Wayne McCrory, a consulting biologist based near New Denver in the West Kootenays, cited the loss of 405 hectares of wetland and 352 hectares of riparian habitat, as well as the certainty for increased mine and recreational traffic along the 50-kilometre mine-access road to kill or displace grizzlies.

McCrory said various human activities in the region already impact wildlife, including human settlement as well as road building and clear-cutting, mineral exploration, overgrazing, poaching and climate change.

“This population cannot sustain further habitat losses or increases in human-induced mortality….,” he writes, noting wild horses, mule deer and moose would also suffer.

“These factors … will push the Chilcotin grizzly bears over the threshold of extinction.”

The province issued Taseko Mines Ltd. an environmental assessment certificate in January, but the federal panel decision has yet to be announced. The project would kill Fish Lake and Little Fish Lake, requiring the mine to provide alternative habitat as compensation.

Environment Minister Barry Penner and Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Minister Blair Lekstrom endorsed the $800-million project.

The Xeni Gwet’in First Nation is opposed to the mine. Chief Marilyn Baptise could not be reached to comment.

McCrory, whose list of clients have included the province and municipal governments, said in the report that his findings are based on 40 years of grizzly bear and wildlife experience combined with literature on conservation biology and cumulative effects as well as studies on mine-grizzly interaction.

Both the Valhalla Wilderness Society and Friends of Nemaiah Valley supported McCrory’s research in the area.

In his report, McCrory criticizes Taseko for minimizing the environmental impact of its development.

“By using a scientifically narrow habitat area-based approach as their ecological tape measure and ignoring relevant scientific literature on cumulative effects, Taseko was able to conclude that their development will have no significant impacts on grizzly bears and other wildlife….”

He warned that “any mining company could use the same … approach for other mine developments in the same area and arrive at the same deceptive conclusion that there would be no significant effects on wildlife. This is highly misleading.”

Taseko vice-president for corporate affairs Brian Battison could not be reached to comment.

McCrory noted that studies farther south in B.C. have shown the negative impact of motorized traffic on grizzlies along the Duffey Lake Road “such that resident female grizzly bears have become extirpated north of this road and south of Anderson Lake.”

He described the grizzly bear population in the West Chilcotin region and South Chilcotin Ranges (site of Taseko’s mine proposal) as the largest residual dryland population left in the Coast Ranges foothills of western North America. Their diet includes salmon, whitebark pine nuts and wild potatoes.

The population surrounding the Taseko mine site is down to about 100 animals.

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To sign a petition – supported by RAVEN – to protect Teztan Biny, please go to http://www.protectfishlake.ca

To send a message to federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice that this Schedule 2 exemption in the Fisheries Act must be closed, write to: Minister@ec.gc.ca

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