Fish Lake Submission Fails to Meet Guidelines

Sierra Club BC website, September 2012

In a 48-page letter, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) pans Taseko Mine Ltd.’s draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the “New Prosperity” gold and copper mine near Fish Lake, saying it “does not meet the requirements of the EIS guidelines.”

Citing more than 200 issues with the draft EIS, the federal agency scolds Taseko for missing information, editorial comments, poor data quality and incorrect statements.

In its table of comments on the submission, the agency wrote that overall, the “quality of all figures provided in the draft EIS is very poor. The resolution is very low, so that text on the figures is very difficult to read. Enlarging either in hard copy or on screen does not help. Improved quality figures must be provided in adequate resolution to be able to read all figures.”

Notably, the CEAA says that “the draft EIS has not addressed all previously identified potential impacts to Aboriginal potential and established rights and conclusions and therefore does not include adequate information as requested by the EIS guidelines.”

Read the Vancouver Sun story about the CEAA’s response to Taseko.

The proposed mine is on the traditional lands of the Xeni Gwet’in First Nation, a member of the Tsilhqot’in National Government, which won a court case recognizing its rights to the area and is staunchly opposed to the mine.

The Tsilhqot’in National Government called the government review “scathing” and said that it is “further proof that [Taseko Mines Ltd] has no clear plan for this project.” Read their July 17th press release.

In its draft EIS, Taseko claimed that the area around Fish Lake was of “low seismic activity.” In reply, the CEAA commented: “Additional text should be provided. While the immediate area around the site is one of low seismicity (only 1 earthquake within 50 km during the past 20 years), this site is immediately adjacent to a very seismically active region. During the past 20 years, 207 earthquakes have occurred within 100 km of the site, and 1900 earthquakes have occurred within 200 km of the site. Large, but distant earthquakes are a factor at this site. Note that the hazard level at this site, as indicated in the 2010 National Building Code of Canada, is moderate-high.”

Other issues with the draft EIS mentioned by the assessment agency include:

  • There is insufficient information regarding proposed measures to control and collect seepage from the TSF [Tailings Storage Facility]. Until this information has been provided, the federal government will not be in a position to complete its assessment of proposed measures to control and collect seepage from the TSF. As a result, we will not be able to complete the assessment of the potential impacts of the project on water quality in upper Fish Creek, Fish Lake, Wasp Lake and Beece Creek. (p. 4)
  • The draft EIS did not include fish habitat compensation plans. Without having fish habitat compensation plans available for review the Agency is unable to provide any advice on whether the plans contain sufficient details consistent with the EIS Guidelines. (p. 24)
  • Post closure risk estimates for consuming arsenic in fish exceed the acceptable thresholds identified and exceed those for the baseline scenario. (p. 36)
  • Does not mention loss of Little Fish Lake (beyond the reduction of impact on archaeological sites) nor Nabas. (p. 38) • There is no mention of loss of right to fish in Little Fish Lake and potential impacts over time to Fish Lake which is an identified concern for the TNG. (p. 38)

Click here to read the full letter and table of comments from the CEAA.

This latest development in the assessment process for a Fish Lake gold and copper mine comes after a November 2011 decision to allow a second proposal from Taseko Mines Ltd. The company’s original proposal for a gold and copper mine near Williams Lake was rejected in 2010 by then federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice, following a scathing environmental assessment that concluded the mine would cause irreparable damage to First Nations rights, as well as to fish stocks and at-risk grizzly populations.

Taseko’s revised project avoids draining picturesque Fish Lake, home to 80,000 rainbow trout and once featured on a B.C. tourism brochure. Instead, Fish Lake would be surrounded by the proposed open-pit mine and unusable for the life of the mine (up to 33 years). Little Fish Lake, which is crucial to the ecosystem that supports the unique trout population, would be destroyed.

Learn more about Fish Lake.