A proposed mine 125 kilometres west of Williams Lake, B.C., was recently given the no-go from Canada’s minister of the environment, Leona Aglukkaq. The proposal, called the New Prosperity Mine Project, was for the mine to be built near Fish Lake, but an independent review panel found that “the New Prosperity Mine is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects that cannot be mitigated.”
Taseko Mines Ltd., the mining company that proposed New Prosperity, figured that the mineral deposit at the site holds 5.3 billion pounds of copper and 13.3 million ounces of gold. The estimated pre-tax present net value of the deposit was reported as approximately $3 billion. This is not the first time Taseko proposed the Prosperity site. In 2010, the company attempted to get the green light, but its proposal was declined then also.
“The federal government is not going to allow a mine that would have that kind of impact on the water and the wildlife…and that’s a really good thing,” said Joe Roy, the national campaign director of activist organization the Wilderness Committee. Roy and his colleagues worked with the First Nations communities situated in and around the area in protesting the mine’s construction.
“We became involved in 2010,” said Roy. “That was during the first proposal.” He added, “You’d be hard-pressed to find a more damned, a more criticized, or a worse mining project than this, based on the two back-to-back reports they got.”
The lake, and the plateau on which the mine proposal had set its sights, is the land of the Tsilhqot’in First Nation. The lake is known as Teztan Biny in the Tsilhqot’in language.
The review panel’s environmental report underlined ways the New Prosperity Mine may have caused environmental harm. Roy highlighted some of those issues: “A great risk of water from the tailings pond making it into Fish Lake and other water courses. … There is also great concern about the region’s grizzly bear population, which is an at-risk population, and there’s acknowledgement that it would be a massive impact on First Nations people. The Tsilhqot’in people primarily enjoy, hunt and fish and otherwise enjoy, a good life on their territory.”
The Globe and Mail’s global energy reporter, Shawn McCarthy, wrote in an article, “Taseko Mines Ltd. could be forgiven if it is feeling a bit like a pawn in a chess match between the Harper government and British Columbia’s First Nations communities.” He believes that the Tory Government is trying to save face with this rejection in lieu of the Northern Gateway and Kinder Morgan pipelines.
However, Roy said, “If you ask the government to do something and they do it, I think you need to say they’ve done a good thing, and in this case they’ve done a good thing.”
On the Wilderness Committee’s website, Fish Lake is called one of the 10 best fishing lakes in the province. But, on the Freshwater Fisheries Society of B.C.’s website, gofishbc.com, Fish Lake isn’t among the over 100 fishing lakes in the Cariboo/Williams Lake region.
In 2012, B.C. mining provided jobs for 10 419 people, and Kerry Cook, the mayor of Williams Lake, told a radio station in Vancouver she was hoping to see some of those jobs come to her city. “People need to understand the connection between resource development and a city like Williams Lake’s dependence on resource development,” said Cook. “I mean these are our jobs—these are our families.”