Taseko Gold-Copper Mine Project Revisited under CEAA 2012

 Taseko Mines Ltd. proposed to develop a gold mine in British Columbia that triggered a federal EA in January 2009 under the Fisheries Act, the Navigable Waters Protection Act and the Explosives Act. A summary of the negative effects of the “Prosperity Project” listed in the federal EIA include: a loss of the fish and fish habitat at Teztan Biny (fish lake), loss of navigation (concerns expressed by transport Canada), loss of current use of resources by Tsikhqot’in, possible migration of tailings to Big Onion Lake and Taseko river, and threat of survival of the already strained South Chilcotin grizzly population (Prosperity gold-copper mine project 2009).

MAP 1 – Preferred plan for Prosperity mine
(Prosperity gold-copper mine project 2010)

Map 1 shows the preferred option for the development and mitigation measures of Prosperity mine recommended by the federal panel report (Prosperity gold-copper mine project 2010, p.42).  The federal government refused approval for Prosperity mine due to the condemning nature of the federal panel report. What is more, the provincial Minister of Environment issued a Section 14 order under the BCEAA which required review by the provincial government in 2008 (Federal CEAA), the provincial government had approved Prosperity mine of fish lake earlier in 2009 on the grounds that impacts were limited and justified (Ecojustice 2009). Today, Taseko has formally submitted an environmental impact statement for a re-evaluation of Prosperity mine as reported by the media (CBC News 2012). Is anyone even really surprised? Taseko will now be subject to the new CEAA 2012 process which may finally see the fruition of Prosperity mine at Fish lake to the detriment of the fish and their habitat, the Tsikhqot’in and the threatened South Chilcotin grizzly…right? There is reason to believe that the new act is geared towards passing projects through the system. How is this done and what changes have occurred under the CEAA 2012? First, section 32 deregulates federal authority to the province through substitution so that if the Minister of the Environment believes the provincial process is an appropriate substitute for an assessment under the CEAA 2012 and if it is to be performed by a responsible authority, then it occurs at the provincial level, final say can still occurs at the federal level (CEAA 2012). As previously mentioned, the provincial and federal assessments released in 2009 came to different conclusions about the significance of impacts, which led the BC provincial government to grant approval for Prosperity mine.  Furthermore, section 27 puts a time limit on the entire process: from the start of the EIA to the Minister’s decision there is an allowance of 365 days, unless it is a panel review, in that case the time frame expands to 24 months (CEAA 2012). A time restraint limits how detailed a report can be, although there are positives and negatives to timed reports, an alarming negative is that details may be missed along the way and these details could be significant to the report, case in point: the difference between the federal and provincial EIAs of Prosperity mine in 2010. So, is fish lake doomed to become a tailings dump? Not necessarily; the substitution clause is inapplicable because Prosperity mine might trigger a panel review and not a responsible authority assessment, this also means that the time frame for the assessment increases to 24 months which is six months less than it took the 2010 federal review panel to complete the report. Thus, there is a good chance that little to no change in the basic structure of the process and the federal environmental minister would have final say on the decision. As such, the Taseko Mines project serves as a potentially good example of how the CEAA 2012 may not be as dramatically terrible as alarmists would have us believe. However, an in depth comparison shall be necessary once the environmental impact assessment is officially completed under the CEAA 2012.

References:

Canadian Environmental Assessment Act: an act respecting the environmental assessment of certain activities and the prevention of significant adverse environmental effects,  2012. c. 19, s.52. http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/C-15.21/page-1.html

Canadian Press, “Taseko re-submits environmental impact for new Prosperity mine,” CBC News, September 21, 2012. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2012/09/21/bc-taseko-prosperity-mine.html

“Legal Backgrounder: Canadian Environmental Assessment Act” Ecojustice, May 2009. http://www.ecojustice.ca/files/ceaa-backgrounder-1/at_download/file (accessed October 13, 2012)

Prosperity gold-copper mine project. 2010. Report of the Federal Environmental Assessment Panel. CEAA Reference No. 09-05-44811

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One thought on “Taseko Gold-Copper Mine Project Revisited under CEAA 2012

  1. Pingback: New Prosperity – Same Old Result: Revisiting Taseko’s Gold-Copper Mine Proposal | Environmental Assessment

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