MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Canada's Red Chris Mine Faces Court Challenge

Published by MAC on 2007-06-22

Canada's Red Chris Mine Faces Court Challenge

by PlanetArk Canada

22nd June 2007

TORONTO - A Canadian federal court is mulling whether to overturn approvals for a controversial copper and gold mine in British Columbia, following a challenge from an environmental watchdog group.

MiningWatch Canada says the government erred in giving the go-ahead to the Red Chris open pit mine in 2005 because it did not follow environmental protection laws that stipulate public consultations as part of the approval process.

The mine, which is owned by Vancouver-based Imperial Metals Corp. , would turn local waterways into a soup of mine waste and destroy local fish habitats, and the public should have been given a chance to provide its input, the group says.

"We've taken it to court on the basis that we think they are absolutely required to consult the public and have a consultation period," MiningWatch national coordinator Joan Kuyek said in an interview.

The group, which is represented by environmental law non-profit Sierra Legal, has asked the court to stop the government from issuing permits for the mine.

Judge Luc Martineau reserved his decision Thursday following three days of hearings at a federal court in Vancouver.

Kuyek said the court's decision could have far-reaching consequences as it is the first test of 2003 amendments to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act that require the government to consult the public in approving mines that produce 3,000 tonnes of ore per day, or about one-tenth of expected production of Red Chris.

She said the federal Fisheries and Oceans Department and National Resources Canada violated the law by determining the project did not require a public consult, and instead decided only a simple screening assessment was needed.

"Knowing their environmental assessment of the Red Chris Mine was controversial, they refused to consult the public," Sierra Legal lawyer Lara Tessaro said in a statement.

The challenge comes as soaring base metals prices have upped the ante on explorers looking to find resources.

Red Chris, which Imperial Metals acquired when it took over BcMetals this year, is expected to produce 1.8 billion pounds of copper and 1.2 million ounces of gold over a mine life of 25 years, according to a 2004 feasibility study.

Imperial Metals had no comment on the challenge. The government agencies said said they would not comment on a matter before the courts.

BcMetals ran into opposition to the mine last year when a local Tahltan aboriginal group set up a blockade to stop a drilling program, saying it violated sacred ground.

Imperial Metals shares closed up 14 Canadian cents to C$14.60 on the Toronto Stock Exchange. (US$1=$1.07 Canadian)

Story by Cameron French



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