Taseko Mines will get a second kick at the can for its controversial gold and copper mine at Fish Lake, B.C. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency on Monday announced a review panel to look into the company's proposal for the massive New Prosperity Mine, located 125 kilometres southwest of Williams Lake, B.C.
"We're pleased that the environmental assessment is going forward. It's important that everybody makes their best efforts to bring this opportunity to reality," says Brian Battison, vice-president of communications at Taseko Mines.
An earlier review panel initially found an earlier version of Taseko's mine environmentally unacceptable. Based on that assessment, then-environment minister Jim Prentice refused to let the project go ahead in November 2010.
The review panel will be a group of independent experts selected on the basis of their knowledge and expertise and appointed by the minister of the environment.
The CEAA's decision to reopen the case left local First Nations extremely disappointed.
"We were hoping that the Canadian government would do the honourable thing and just turn the company down from doing another environmental review," says Chief Joe Alphonse, Tribal Chair of the Tsilhqot'in National Government. Alphonse said he worries that industry has too much influence in Ottawa.
Smaller lake to be used as tailings pond
Taseko's original proposal for the mine would have used Fish Lake as a tailings pond for chemical waste from the mining process. The company argued the this was the only profitable way to exploit the gold and copper in the area.
The New Prosperity Mine will save Fish Lake and instead will use a smaller lake for tailings. The company says that because the price of gold is so much higher, it can afford the extra $300 million it will cost to save the lake.
Whether or not the lake is saved, some experts say the CEAA's decision to do another assessment sets a bad precedent.
"If it's open for proponents simply to come back a few months later and insist on their rights to have a new assessment, then I think that's troubling," said Chris Tollefson, executive director of the Environmental Law Centre at the University of Victoria. Tollefson believes there needs to be "finality" in these decisions.
The review panel has one year to complete its assessment.