MAC: Mines and Communities

When will Taseko vacate Tsilhqot'in territory?

Published by MAC on 2012-12-17
Source: Statements,

Taseko Mines' proposed New Prosperity mine in British Columbia has long been hammered by the Tsilhqot'in First Nation.

See: Taseko Mines' Draft Environmental Impact Statement proves issues are not being addressed

Now, an independent panel has found numerous deficiencies in the company's "revised" mining plan.

While welcoming the panel's findings, the Tsilhqot'in  now call on Taseko to "stop wasting everyone's time and withdraw its oviously shoddy proposal".

Tsilhqot'in National Government calls Prosperity proposal 'shoddy'

Tsilhqot'in National Government Press Release

13 December 2012

The Independent Panel reviewing the controversial New Prosperity mine project has told Taseko Mines Limited that major deficiencies with the proposal must be addressed before the Panel can consider proceeding to public hearings, but Tsilhqot'in National Government is calling on the company to stop wasting everyone's time and withdraw its obviously shoddy proposal.

"We agree with the Panel," said Tsilhqot'in National Government Tribal Chair Chief Joe Alphonse, "Government regulators also said that the company has not backed up its claims that it can somehow 'save' Teztan Biny in the middle of an open-pit mining operation.

Our position is that this proposal does not stand up, it will not save Teztan Biny and it would still mean the same devastating impacts for our culture and our communities".

"Only weeks after its Prosperity proposal was rejected, this company started claiming it could now save Teztan Biny and deal with all the impacts that doomed the last proposal," said Chief Marilyn Baptiste of the Xeni Gwet'in First Nation, "Well, the Panel and the governments have now said there are serious deficiencies in those claims. It seems to us that the company has put its efforts into pushing through a second proposal as fast as it can, without doing the homework to see if it can actually back up its proposal".

Taseko Mines Ltd., by its own admission, has spent many years and more than $100 million of investors' dollars working on this project, despite being advised of serious concerns with the project in 1995 by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Governments and the Tsilhqot'in Nation, among other First Nations, have exhausted valuable time and finances to deal with a failed, destructive massive open pit proposal to process low grade ores.

With all these years of work to draw on, and a clear set of instructions provided in February as to what information was needed, the company submitted a draft EIS several months ago that federal and provincial regulators found widely deficient in a scathing letter that listed almost 250 criticisms of missing, false, poorly written and illegible information.

Rather than seriously address all these concerns, the company submitted a quickly revised EIS on September 27, 2012.

Several federal and provincial departments again identified major deficiencies with the EIS, several relating to the company's claims that it could save Teztan Biny. The Panel itself has now identified major deficiencies.

When the Panel identified a serious issue with the EIS two weeks ago and asked Taseko Mines Ltd. to address it, the company responded by saying the Panel was wrong and the company did not have to fix the deficiency. The Panel ordered the company again to address the deficiency.

The attached analysis by MiningWatch Canada [see below] summarizes deficiencies in the EIS identified by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Environment Canada, Health Canada, Natural Resources Canada, Transport Canada (TC), and the BC Ministries of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, Energy and Mines and Natural Gas, and the Environment.

Given that the BC government approved the first Prosperity Mine proposal, and that Premier Christy Clark has supported the new bid and even called for the original federal rejection to be over turned, it is telling that even the province's own ministries are critical of the company's latest proposal.

Responses on the project registry also include a critique of Taseko Mines' assessment of First Nations impacts by Ms. Ehrhart-English, who was hired by the company to prepare its Aboriginal cultural heritage study for the area in the 1990s. In her statement to the Panel, the company's own expert states, "Little Fish Lake is the area in which most of the traditional activities have taken place ... I am very surprised that they would attempt to propose to place a tailings pond on ... one of the most important cultural areas in the entire ... study area".

"It is time for TML to stop wasting our time and money, taxpayers' money and its own investors' dollars and walk away from this project. Had it done that when the Department of Fisheries and Oceans raised serious concerns in 1995, we would all be much better off today. As it stands now, they are making a mockery of the environmental assessment process," said Chief Alphonse.

For the MiningWatch Canada analysis click here

Taseko Gets an Incomplete : 50 Substantial Deficiencies Found in Environmental Impact Statement

MiningWatch Canada statement

11 December  2012

Yesterday the federal Review Panel examining the New Prosperity Gold Copper Mine Project issued a notice to proponent Taseko Mines that the company's environmental impact statement (EIS) is deficient in fifty different ways.

This determination follows a scathing review of an earlier draft in July and an initial indication at the end of November that the Panel was not satisfied with how Taseko dealt with cumulative environmental effects.

Taseko rushed to get this application filed after a previous version of the project was rejected by the federal government following a similar review process. One of the most controversial aspects of the previous proposal, but certainly not the only one, was the plan to drain Teztan Biny or Fish Lake - a culturally important and ecologically productive lake full of rainbow trout.

A keystone of Taseko's re-submission is their claim that they can now economically and technically prevent significant negative effects to Teztan Biny, while maintaining access to it for First Nations and recreational purposes.

This, while the lake is within an industrial mining site sandwiched between a 500m deep open pit, and a 36 storey tailings impoundment. Seems improbable to us and according to various reviewiers and the Panel, Taseko has failed to provide enough information to support the claim.

Ten of the fifty deficiencies identified by the Panel relate to the prediction of impacts on Fish Lake. Here's one that stuck out to me (appologies for the long quote but it's really worth reading):

"As part of site investigations for the original Prosperity Mine Project, the Proponent conducted a pump test in 1994 on wells immediately north of Fish Lake for the purpose of evaluating the use of wells for pit dewatering (Appendix, p. 7). The test yielded estimates of hydraulic conductivity in hydrogeologic units between the proposed pit and Fish Lake that were considered unrealistically high, possibly due to problems with the testing procedure (Appendix, Table C-5).

"Results from the test were therefore considered unreliable and discounted. Since that time, it appears that the Proponent has not undertaken any further site investigation work aimed at confirming the original pump test results or at better characterizing groundwater interactions between the proposed open pit and Fish Lake. Currently, for pre-development conditions, the Proponent estimates groundwater baseflow discharge to Fish Lake at 446-493 m3/day and lakebed seepage at 0 m3/day (Table, p.642). The Panel notes that NRCan considers these estimates to be very low.

"The Panel acknowledges that NRCan and the Proponent's consultant (BGC) have previously recommended the Proponent undertake further site investigations adjacent to Fish Lake aimed at better characterizing hydraulic conductivities in the area and thereby improving confidence in predictions of pit dewatering effects on groundwater interactions with Fish Lake (Appendix, p.14)".

So, to translate some of the technical jargon, the only available field data on groundwater flows between the would-be open pit and Teztan Biny come from one well that showed such a high flow rate Taseko didn't want to believe the numbers.

A high flow rate indicates a major risk of draining water into the pit that would otherwise be headed to the lake or that's already in the lake. Rather than using the measured field data, Taseko used estimates that Natural Resources Canada considers to be "very low" and would underestimate the risks.

The Panel asks Taseko to explain this but not to do any new field work, which on one hand is disappointing but also understandable given the pressure they are under to conclude their review and the Tsilhqot'in National Government's concerns about allowing additional work in their territory for a project they staunchly oppose.

The other deficiencies flagged by the Panel reference a cornucopia of serious flaws in the EIS that were pointed out by government agencies (see our summary here), the Tsilhqot'in, and other reviewers, including one of MiningWatch's comments about the inadequate assessment of accidents and malfunctions.

It's now up to Taseko to respond to the deficiencies. As they do that the clock counting down the panel's 1-year time limit is paused. If the recent past is any indication Taseko will respond in relatively short order with a defensive, bordering on belligerent, attitude and marginal improvements in the inormation presented. From there the panel will decide to ask for further information or prepare for the hearings. Either way, MiningWatch will continue to monitor and provide critical input into the process.

Taseko Mines weathers multiple storms

Cecilia Jamasmie

12 December 2012

Canadian Taseko Mines is having a rocky end of the year as workers threaten to strike at the company's copper-molybdenum Gibraltar mine, in British Columbia. Were that not enough First Nation representatives are calling the company to "stop wasting everyone's time" and withdraw the controversial New Prosperity mine project proposal.

The miner said it has received a 72-hour strike notice by the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) Union, which represent workers at Gibraltar.

On Monday, an independent panel reviewing the gold-copper New Prosperity project told Taseko that major deficiencies with the proposal must be addressed before the group can consider proceeding to public hearings.

In an e-mailed declaration, Tsilhqot'in National Government Tribal Chair, Chief Joe Alphonse, remarked this is not the first time the miner received a letter from the authorities outlining deficiencies in the company's environmental impact statement (EIS).

Alphonse added that Taseko has spent years and over $100 million on this project, "despite being advised of serious concerns with the project in 1995 by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Governments and the Tsilhqot'in Nation, among other First Nations."

The proposed open-pit mine, to be located approximately 125 kilometres southwest of Williams Lake, has raised the ire of environmentalists and First Nations groups for the proposed destruction of a lake to be used as a tailings impoundment.

The original $1.1 billion proposal was rejected in 2010 by the federal government due to the company's plan to drain Fish Lake for the storage of non-acid generating rock.

In the spring of 2011, Taseko came back with a new proposal that would save Fish Lake, but the Western Canada Wilderness Committee (WCWC) criticized the plan as, from an environmental perspective, worse than the original one.

In response, the Vancouver-based firm filed suit against WCWC and its outreach director, Sven Biggs, for defamation regarding the project.

Taseko's shares were trading low in Toronto, down 2,36% to 2.89 at 1:30 pm ET.

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