MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Preserving fish stocks a challenge for Taseko, Northgate

Published by MAC on 2007-01-29
Source: The Northern Miner

Preserving fish stocks a challenge for Taseko, Northgate

by Peter Kennedy, The Northern Miner

29th January 2007

Vancouver --Preserving fish stocks in lakes that will be affected by new mining developments in British Columbia is shaping up to be a key challenge for Taseko Mines and Northgate Minerals.

It is a hurdle that both companies say they need to overcome as they vie to gain access to fish-bearing lakes that are needed to store waste from new copper-gold mines in the province's north, and south central regions.

"This is not unusual," says Ken Stowe, CEO of Northgate, which has presented its plan to a joint federal and provincial government review panel, in hopes of securing a mining permit for the Kemess North copper-gold project.

Other Canadian companies such as Aur Resources and Inco have faced similar challenges, he says.

Kemess North is located about 430 km northwest of Prince George, B.C.

According to documents filed with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency in Ottawa, Northgate is proposing to transfer populations of char and rainbow trout from a lake located near the mine site project to other nearby lakes.

In its regulatory filings, the company says it can preserve the genetic integrity of Dolly Varden char and rainbow trout populations that currently reside in Duncan Lake, by introducing them to the nearby Mulvaney and Whudzi Lake systems.

This would free up Duncan Lake for use as a tailings storage facility for acid-generating waste rock from the proposed Kemess North mine, which is being developed to replace ore reserves in an adjacent mine, expected to be depleted some time in 2009.

Northgate said it is committed to ensure that there is "no net loss" of fish populations as a result of the Kemess North development.

Taskeo Mines is set to make a similar pledge as it decides what to do with 85,000 rainbow trout that reside near its Prosperity project, which is located about 125 km southwest of Williams Lake in south-central B.C.

"This is something we need to do," says Scott Jones, general manager of project development with Taseko.

The pledge comes after the Vancouver company released a prefeasibility study for Prosperity, which it hopes to develop at a cost of $756 million.

In its prefeasibility, Taseko said Prosperity contains 480 million tonnes of proven and probable reserves, grading 0.43 gram gold per tonne and 0.22% copper.

Coming up with a plan to transfer rainbow trout from Prosperity's Fish Lake will be among the challenges that Taseko faces as it moves to secure an environmental assessment certificate for the mine.

"It will be the most controversial," Jones says. He says any plan that involves the storage of waste rock in fish-bearing lakes is always going to attract attention because of the "emotional attachment that people have to this sort of thing."

Taseko has hired a consultant to assist with the fish transfer process, and hopes to be in a position to deliver an environmental impact assessment (EIA) statement to the B.C. and Canadian governments by the end of April. But the company has yet to say exactly how it will deal with the fish transfer issue.

In Northgate's case, it will simply hire a biologist to catch about 3,000 fish that reside in Duncan Lake.

"We are not in the fish collecting business," Stowe says.

In its regulatory filings, Northgate says the transfer of fish to lakes in the Toodoggone and upper Finlay watersheds can be achieved without compromising the genetic integrity of existing fish populations in those areas.

But that has not prevented the federal and provincial governments from extending a public review of the Kemess North expansion project, which was previously scheduled to be wrapped up by the end of last year.

In order to resolve outstanding issues related to the First Nations participation in the review process, the review period has been extended for another 90 days, beginning Jan. 1, 2007.

In a motion filed in Ottawa, the Gitxsan First Nation has asked for the time and funding to allow it engage experts that will be needed to help the Gitxsan prepare submissions to government agencies and panels involved in the EIA process.

In its motion, the Gitxsan allege that they have been improperly excluded from the consultation process and do not have the resources and opportunity to participate effectively.

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