The federal government is reviewing Taseko's New Prosperity mine proposal for the second time. Ottawa rejected the project in 2010 over concerns the mine would destroy nearby Fish Lake.
The new proposal will no longer turn the lake into a tailings pond.
But UBC fisheries professor John Stockner told the panel the mine will destroy a large portion of the lake's wetlands, ultimately killing the fish.
"Fairly soon, the impact will roughly destroy 40 to 50 per cent of the wetlands that drain into the system, and its productivity is completely based upon on what happens in its drainage,” he said.
"The amount of organic production in the lake will settle to the bottom, and the fish — within a decade, maybe two — will be asphyxiated one cold, February night. The oxygen will be depleted, and fish, like us, require oxygen.”
'We need this mine'
The panel also heard from project proponents, who maintain there will be a minimal impact to the environment.
Supporters also spoke about the project’s economic benefits. Taseko claims the mine will create about 700 direct jobs, and $10 billion in revenue over the mine’s 20-year life span.
"We need this mine,” said John Meech, professor of mining engineering at UBC.
“It's one of the top 10 copper-gold ore bodies in the world. And the question isn't should we mine, but when will we mine?"
The final community hearing is today in Dog Creek. Final remarks are on Friday in Williams Lake.
The federal government is expected to make a decision on the project some time this year.
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