Environmental interests must balance with job creation potential
VANCOVUER — As a Hollywood movie it would be titled Dead Mine Walking, according to a B.C. aboriginal group fighting a gold and copper development near Williams Lake.
In reality, the proposed New Prosperity Mine in the Cariboo-Chilcotin region is experiencing a “Take Two” moment, undergoing its second federal environmental review. An earlier Prosperity mine proposal, put forward by Vancouver-based Taseko Mines, was rejected back in 2010 by a similar federal panel.
The company has since overhauled its plans, pledging to preserve nearby Fish Lake, which it previously planned to use as a tailings pond repository. Taseko notes it is spending $300 million to mitigate impacts on wildlife and habitat in the area.
The company hopes such measures will help it win the nod from the review panel, which consists of an environmental assessment specialist from Calgary, a community consultation expert from Sidney, and a Victoria geologist.
The trio began hearings in Williams Lake on Monday, and will wind up the process on Aug. 23.
The B.C. government approved the project two years ago and is expected to give its final sanction shortly after Federal Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq delivers her verdict on the controversial project by March of 2014.
The Prosperity mine is important because it has all the elements of a much larger battle between the Harper Conservatives, keen to promote job creation through resource development, and a pragmatic alliance of environmentalists and aboriginals who oppose the thrust.
“This new proposal is just as unacceptable as the last one, regardless of the name or spin thrown out there by this company,” insists Roger William of the Xeni Gwet’in First Nation. “This is a terrible project that cannot be approved.”
The chief calls the mine development “truly a test case for all First Nations across the province and Canada to see if this government takes its commitment to First Nations seriously, and whether the revamped environmental assessment will have any credibility going forward.
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