TEN REASONS WHY THE NEW PROSPERITY PROPOSAL MUST BE REJECTED
As the federal review panel conducts its public hearings for Taseko Mines Ltd.’s revised application to transform the pristine wilderness of the Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) area into a massive, low-grade, open pit mine, here are ten major reasons why this project should be firmly rejected yet again – this time once and for all.
1. “New” Prosperity, same old devastating impacts for First Nations. An independent Panel reviewed the original Prosperity proposal, and concluded that this mine would have a “high magnitude, long term, irreversible effect on the Tsilhqot’in” and that “the loss of the area for practicing their current use, spiritual and cultural activities would be significant and unmitigable” (Panel Report 2010, pp. iii, 203).
Nothing in the new plan changes these impacts. The previous Panel made this clear when it said “the proximity of the open pit and associated mining facilities would be close enough to Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) to eliminate the intrinsic value of the area to First Nations even if another alternative were chosen” – including the alternative that is now proposed as “New” Prosperity (Panel Report 2010, p. 50).
2. Already reviewed and rejected. “New” Prosperity is actually based on an alternative mine design that was considered – and rejected – in the previous Panel review. In 2010, the independent Panel, federal regulators and the company itself described this alternative as an “even greater long-term environmental risk” that would likely contaminate Teztan Biny over time (Panel Report 2010, p. 50).
3. Proven Aboriginal rights. The project is proposed for one of the few areas in Canada where a First Nation has successfully proven Aboriginal hunting and trapping rights in court. The previous Panel described impacts on these proven Aboriginal rights as significant and immitigable (Panel Report 2010, pp. 218, 245). The B.C. Court of Appeal recently affirmed these Aboriginal rights, stating “[t]he recognition of such rights will serve to prevent incompatible uses of the land”: William v. British Columbia, 2012 BCCA 285, para. 233.
4. The Company’s disrespect for the Tsilhqot’in Nation. The Tsilhqot’in Nation flatly rejects any claims that the company has engaged in meaningful consultation. We perceive the actions of the company as failed attempts to cause division within our community through divide and conquer tactics. The company has also demonstrated disdain for our culture and spirituality by asking the federal environment minister to ban our ceremony and prayers from the proceedings. The request was immediately turned down, but the fact that it was made speaks volumes.
5. Unified First Nations Opposition. First Nations across BC and Canada have vowed to stand with us in defence of our lands, as expressed through resolutions of the Assembly of First Nations, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs and the First Nations Summit. The AFN resolution warns that approval of this project would create mistrust and fuel tensions with the federal government and mining industry.
6. Public Opposition. First Nations are not alone in opposing this project. Local and provincial groups that are wholeheartedly engaged in the effort to save this area include: Friends of the Nemaiah Valley; Chilko Resorts and Community Association, Friends of Fish Lake, RAVEN (Respecting Aboriginal Values and Environmental Needs); Fish Lake Alliance; MiningWatch Canada, Williams Lake Chapter of Council of Canadians; Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society; Wilderness Committee; Valhalla Wilderness Society and the Sierra Club B.C.
A poll conducted on behalf of the Sierra Club of BC in November 2011 indicated 73% of British Columbians had serious concerns about the Province’s fast-tracked approval of the first Prosperity proposal, which was subsequently rejected federally in 2010 because of “scathing” and insurmountable problems, including damage to culture, water, fish and fish habitat and grizzly habitat to name a few.
7. Poster Child for Bad Mining Practices. This project would not be a success for the mining industry if approved, and instead would set back any efforts to improve relations. We agree with Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, who has repeatedly described Prosperity as “the poster child for everything that is wrong with the mining industry in BC.”
8. Serious deficiencies in the company’s work. On the environmental front, the company submitted an Environmental Impact Statement that was so deficient that it resulted in over 40 pages of information requests from Federal Departments, and one deficiency statement after another, after another, after another, from the independent Panel. In the end, the Panel decided to proceed to hearings after the Proponent simply refused to answer direct information requests from the Panel about issues as critical as the rate of seepage into Fish Lake and other water bodies from the Tailings Storage Facility (see NRCan submission, June 14, 2013, pp. 5-7, 10).
9. Environmental risks and uncertainties. Hearings are now proceeding despite the fact that the company refused to answer direct requests from the Panel concerning the results of test drilling that raise concerns about Fish Lake water levels lowering as a result of draining into the mine’s open pit. Provincial officials have questioned the water treatment methods proposed by the Proponent, noting that these methods are “not widely used in mining applications” and are “considered to be very high cost”, which could pose long-term liabilities for the public. A recent report submitted by Natural Resources Canada estimated that contaminated seepage from the Tailings Storage Facility would be “11 times the value estimated by Taseko” with 18% of this seepage going to the deep groundwater system, where it could not be intercepted or captured at all.
10. Economic Risks. On the economic front, the company’s feasibility studies were conducted in house and have not been independently verified. The company claims it can proceed on existing prices, even with dramatically increased costs. However, as the world’s biggest mining companies are now scaling back and watching profits plunge, the Tsilhqot’in are not convinced by the company’s in-house claims. Nor are others: some analysts are now classifying Taseko as a “strong sell”.
In the case of gold operations, the company would be required to provide 22% of production to Franco Nevada at a mere $400 an ounce in return for a $350 million investment. The ore grade for this mine would be very low – less than .5g per ton. This would be one of the lowest grade mines in Canada and the world and early shutdown and inability to pay for longterm environmental cleanup is a real risk.