Mining

Tsilhqot’in Ready for Yet Another Fight if B.C. Grants Mine Exploration Permits Denied by Feds

Tsilhqot'in man beats a drum at Fish Lake, site of the proposed Taseko New Prosperity Mine. Photo by Garth Lenz.

A bizarre twist in a decade-long battle over a proposed mine on Tsilhqot’in Nation traditional territory could see the B.C. government issue extensive exploration permits for the mine this month even though the project has twice been turned down by the federal government.

The proposal by Taseko Mines Ltd. to build a $1.5-billion open pit, copper and gold mine in the Cariboo region — a plan which received vocal support from Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett — was approved in 2010 by the provincial government after a B.C. environmental assessment.

But, the same year, the Prosperity Mine was rejected by the federal review panel, which took a dim view of plans to drain Fish Lake, known to Tsilhqot’in as Teztan Biny, for use as a tailings pond.

The company took a second shot with a proposal for the New Prosperity Mine, which would save Fish Lake and situate the tailings pond two kilometres away in a smaller lake. But, the federal government again turned it down in 2014, despite a trip to Ottawa by Bennett in an effort to persuade the federal government of the importance of the mine to the economy of B.C.

Mining Giant Taseko Seeks to Revive B.C. Gold Mine Twice-Rejected by Harper Government

Two rejections by the federal government have not deterred a Vancouver mining company from again heading to court in an effort to quash Ottawa’s decision to turn down a proposal for an open-pit copper and gold mine in an area where the Tsilhqot’in Nation has established aboriginal rights.

Taseko Mines Ltd. is appearing in Federal Court in Vancouver this week to launch a constitutional challenge to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and ask for a judicial review of the federal government’s decision to reject the proposed $1.5-billion New Prosperity Mine, 125 kilometres southwest of Williams Lake.

Despite the project gaining provincial approval in 2010, the federal government turned down the proposal in 2010 and 2014, saying there would be severe environmental damage and immitigable adverse effects on Tsilhqot’in culture, heritage and aboriginal rights.

B.C.'s 150-Year-Old Mining Laws Are Absurdly Outdated. Guess Who Benefits From That?

B.C. was recently labelled the “Wild West” in a New York Times article for our lack of financial rules or limits around political donations. While mining companies and their executives regularly fall within the top donors’ list to the B.C. Liberal Party, they have benefited from this notion of the Wild West for well over a century. 

In fact, B.C.’s mining laws were created more than 150 years ago during the gold-rush era of the 1850s. These laws were largely created by miners themselves to help guarantee unfettered access to new lands by creating the right of “free entry,” and were part of the strategy to help settle the colony. Tweet: Today, mining activity is still given priority over virtually all other land uses in B.C. http://bit.ly/2kMIz5I #bcpoli #bcmining #cdnpoliToday, mining activity is still given priority over virtually all other land uses in B.C.

In fact, the process for staking a claim has only gotten easier. Are you 18 years old, have $25 and access to a computer? Click and you have a claim staked anywhere — on private property, First Nations hunting grounds, key tourism areas, important salmon habitat or wildlife management areas. Mining activities are off-limits only in parks, under buildings and at certain archeological sites. In other words, mining exploration can take place in over 82 per cent of the province.

Federal Government Seeks to Quash Lawsuit Against Mount Polley and B.C. Government Before Evidence Heard

The federal government is seeking to stay a private lawsuit brought against Mount Polley Mining Corporation and the B.C. government in October 2016, nearly 30 months after the collapse of the Mount Polley tailings pond spilled 25-million cubic metres of contaminated mining waste into Quesnel Lake, a source of drinking water for residents of Likely, B.C.

Now the federal government is seeking a withdrawal of the criminal charges before MiningWatch Canada — the organization that first brought the charges, which claim the company and the province violated the federal Fisheries Act — has been given the opportunity to present evidence.

We were stunned that the federal Crown does not even want us to show the court that there was enough evidence to justify proceeding with a prosecution against both the B.C. government and [the Mount Polley Mining Corporation] for the worst mining spill in Canadian history,” Ugo Lapointe, Canada Program Coordinator for MiningWatch, said.

Southeast Alaskans Ask Canada to Strengthen Its Environmental Laws

British Columbia’s environmental review process simply isn’t strong enough to protect Alaskan communities and rivers from the province’s mining boom, Jill Weitz, American campaigner with Salmon Beyond Borders, recently told a panel reviewing Canada’s environmental assessment process.

Weitz, who works to protect Alaska’s wild salmon runs, traveled to Prince Rupert to tell a trio of experts appointed by the federal government how a more robust federal environmental assessment process could help address transboundary concerns arising in the wake of B.C.’s major push for new mines.

The federally appointed panel is currently reviewing the environmental assessment process managed by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency which is responsible for reviewing major development projects including pipelines, oil and gas development and mines. Changes made under the previous federal government excluded major mines in British Columbia from the federal environmental assessment process — a legislative change Weitz and others say left Alaska in an uncomfortable position.

The transboundary region traversing the border of northwest B.C. and southeast Alaska is home to three major salmon rivers, the Taku, Stikine and Unuk. The rivers flow into Alaska from an area in B.C. that is home to 10 new mines either proposed or already under construction.

Mount Polley, B.C. Government Target of Criminal Charges Brought by Mining Watchdog

Almost 30 months after 25-million cubic metres of contaminated sludge and water swept into lakes and creeks around the Mount Polley Mine, near Williams Lake, MiningWatch Canada has filed a private prosecution against the provincial government and Mount Polley Mining Corporation.

MiningWatch, supported by a coalition of environmental, First Nations and social justice organizations from Canada and Alaska, was forced to take action because the Crown has failed to lay charges and enforce the Fisheries Act despite ample evidence, said Ugo Lapointe, MiningWatch national program coordinator.

We are all concerned that, almost 30 months later, despite clear evidence of impacts on waters, fish and fish habitat, no sanctions and no penalties have been brought forwards by any level of government,” Lapointe said.

Tweet: Lack of #MtPolley action sends wrong signal to industry, undermines public confidence in regulatory system http://bit.ly/2e1QNEJ #bcpoliThis sends the wrong signal to the industry across the country and undermines public confidence in the capacity of our regulatory system to work effectively to protect our environment.”

New B.C.-Alaska Deal Not Enough to Protect Transboundary Rivers from B.C.’s Mines, U.S. Fisheries Panel Hears

Alaska’s fishing industry and lifestyle are under threat from mines on the B.C. side of the border and a non-binding cooperation agreement between B.C. and Alaska, signed last week, does not provide sufficient protection, the Alaska State House Fisheries Committee was told this week.

The committee held a public hearing because of persistent concerns from fishermen, business owners, municipal and Tribal leaders about the proliferation of B.C. mines near the headwaters of salmon-bearing rivers such as the Taku, Unuk and Stikine, which start in B.C. and flow through Southeast Alaska to the ocean.

About 10 mines are in the planning, exploration, construction or production stages in the area close to the border.

Kamloops Councillor Claims Ajax Open-Pit Mine Application Violates Canadian Charter

Just over a hill, beyond the rolling grasslands that flank Kamloops, there’s a looming problem that could upend the lifestyle of neighbourhoods on the outskirts of the city and, after years of debate about whether a massive open-pit mine would be a good neighbour, one city councillor is appealing to the provincial government to suspend the process, claiming it might violate Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The proposal for a gold and copper mine less than three kilometres from a school and even closer to homes, with a tailings pond and dam sitting above a city of 90,000 people, has divided Kamloops residents and city council since an application for the Ajax mine was made by Polish mining company KGHM Polska Miedz more than six years ago.

Many of those living closest to the planned urban mine worry about the proximity of the tailings pond — a concern exacerbated by the disastrous 2014 Mount Polley tailings pond breach — and believe that, despite promised mitigation measures, toxic dust will be carried by prevailing winds that blow from the direction of the mine over their homes and that slope stability and watersheds could be affected.

Owner of Acid-leaking Tulsequah Chief Mine Goes into Receivership

Cleanup of the troubled Tulsequah Chief mine in northwest B.C., which has leaked acidic water into nearby streams and rivers for more than six decades, is again in limbo following an announcement by the owner, Toronto-based Chieftain Metals Inc., that the company is in receivership.

Chieftain, in a statement, said the accounting firm Grant Thornton “was appointed through court order as the receiver of all the assets, undertakings and properties of Chieftain.” The majority of company directors have resigned.

The court order came after a demand by West Face Capitol for repayment of a $26-million loan.

Chieftain’s properties include 65 mineral claims, but the company’s principal focus was development of the Tulsequah Chief, which it bought in 2010. At that time, Chieftain accepted responsibility for the long overdue environmental cleanup, but an interim water treatment plant operated for only six months and was closed in 2012 because of costs and technical issues.

Mount Polley Mine Disaster Two Years In: ‘It’s Worse Than It’s Ever Been’

Thursday marks two years since the Mount Polley mine disaster in Likely, B.C. where a tailings pond collapse spilled 25 million cubic metres of mining waste, laced with contaminants like arsenic, lead and copper, into the once-pristine Quesnel Lake, a major salmon spawning ground and source of drinking water.

To mark the occasion, B.C. Minister of Energy and Mines Bill Bennett issued a press release praising the government’s world-class mining standards, saying the province is now “at the forefront of global standards for the safety of [tailings storage facilities] at mines operating in this province.”

We’ve taken a leadership position and have done all we can to ensure such a failure can never happen in B.C. again,” Bennett said.

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