LandKeepers News Archive
January 27 2009 | News Articles | Williams Lake Tribune
Taseko submits Prosperity proposal
By Erin Hitchcock
Williams Lake Tribune
January 27, 2009
The Prosperity Mine project will undergo an environmental assessment by a federal review panel, announced Canada’s Environment Minister Jim Prentice last week, but Brian Battison, vice president of corporate affairs for Taseko Mines Limited, says the announcement should have come a month ago.
“The decision was supposed to be made back on Dec. 18, so a month has been lost, and time is what’s most important to this project,” Battison says. “Time should not be wasted. We’re trying to make an $800 million investment decision. The federal government needs to be mindful that wasting time doesn’t lead to squandering the opportunity Prosperity represents.”
Battison notes that the provincial government’s process was issued on Jan. 9, and says the provincial environmental assessment decision is expected in October 2009, but there is no expectation when the federal decision will be.
“They were waiting for the federal government and I think they decided they didn’t want to wait any longer,” Battison says. “They have a process that they have to live up to, and they’re determined to go forward with theirs in a timely manner.”
On Friday, Taseko Mines Limited submitted its 3,000-page Environmental Assessment on the high-volume open pit gold-copper mine that would be built about 125 kilometres southwest of Williams Lake.
In addition to the mine and associated tailings and waste rock areas, the project includes an on-site mill, an approximately 125 kilometre-long power transmission line corridor and an access road.
According to the federal government’s terms of reference, the B.C. Environmental Assessment Statement will undertake a 30-day screening of the application against the Environmental Impact Statement guidelines. Once the B.C Environmental Assessment Office determines that the Environmental Impact Statement meets the requirements, Taseko will submit the impact statement to the panel.
Once submitted, the impact statement will be placed on the public registry and will be made available for public review and comment for 60 days.
Within 30 days of the public review of the impact statement being completed, the panel will determine if the EIS contains enough information to proceed to public hearings, which will be scheduled and announced within seven days and won’t begin until at least 30 days after announced.
Once the public hearings are complete, the panel will then prepare and submit a report describing the panel review process, the rationale, conclusions and recommendation to the Minister of Environment and the responsible authorities. The panel will also include a summary of comments received from the public and First Nations.
The report will be submitted within 60 days after the public hearings are complete. The Minister of Environment will then make the report available to the public.
But there is still no defined time when the minister would make a decision once he makes the panel’s report available to the public sometime after October.
“There is a timeline, but it takes us to October, but that’s only for the conclusion of the process,” Battison says. “The decision, there is no timeline attached to that.”
He stresses that time is of the essence in getting the project approved, and says eventually another opportunity for investment could come up that would compel the company to abandon plans for Prosperity Mine.
“Sooner or later, an opportunity is going to come along where our $800 million investment is a better risk-reward scenario in some other jurisdiction, maybe even in some other country of the world, and we will be compelled to go there, and what a shame that would be for this region,” Battison says. “What a shame personally, I think it would be, for a company that already has a mine in Williams Lake to not have been able to build another one because nobody fully understood the value and importance of time. It’s not a threat. It’s just the reality of the mining business. … When you squander time, you squander opportunity.”
Lucille Jamault, senior communications advisor for the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, couldn’t say why the federal environmental assessment wasn’t announced until this month, but she said that between November and December, 2008, there were open houses where guidelines were presented and the terms of reference finalized.
“There are no particular timelines for a minister to make a decision,” Jamault says, adding that the panel is independent from the government. “In terms of the minister’s decision, because it is a ministerial decision, I can’t comment on why or why not or when these things happen.”
In a Nov. 27 dated letter to the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, Taseko Mines Limited president and CEO Russell Hallbauer also noted the urgency of time.
“If there is to be any reasonable chance of building Prosperity in the near term, i.e. have it built and operating in the next three years, then governments must take what some may see as extraordinary measures to ensure a reasonable and timely process,” the letter says.
“The project needs certainty and efficiency and there are aspects of the proposed timeline that provide neither.”
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