New environmental review offers critical view of Taseko mine proposal

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VANCOUVER - A new environmental study into Taseko Mines Ltd. billion-dollar New Prosperity mine proposal in British Columbia is offering a critical assessment of the project.

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency report released Thursday details what it deems ‘‘several significant adverse environmental effects‘‘ related to the project.

Taseko's (TSX:TKO) proposal received provincial approval in 2010 but the federal government rejected the original plan, which would have drained a lake of cultural significance to First Nations for use as a tailings pond.

Taseko then submitted a new plan it said would save Fish Lake, but area aboriginal bands remain opposed because they say the lake will still end up contaminated.

In its report, the agency said Taseko has underestimated the volume of water that would leave a tailings storage facility and the impact on water quality within the Fish Lake and Upper Fish Creek system.

The agency said Taseko’s water quality goals for Fish Lake are ”not likely achievable” and, even with expensive water treatment measures, the protection of Fish Lake water quality is ”unlikely to succeed in the long term.”

The report added that adverse effects on water quality in Fish Lake would result in a ”significant adverse effect on fish and fish habitat” in the lake.

The agency also determined that the project would adversely effect the Tsilhqot’in First Nation’s use of land and resources for traditional purposes. It said the negative impact of the project ”would be significant.”

The site 550 kilometres northeast of Vancouver in the Chilcotin region is the tenth largest undeveloped gold-copper deposit in the world.

The company estimates the New Prosperity mine about 125 km. southwest of Williams Lake would generate 550 direct jobs and $340 million in gross domestic product annually.

The province had approved the original plan, saying the economic benefits outweighed the environmental effects.

The latest environmental review, which wrapped up in August, is not binding, and a final decision on the project is up to the federal environment minister.

Organizations: Taseko Mines Ltd., Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, TSX Tsilhqotin First Nations

Geographic location: Fish Lake, VANCOUVER, British Columbia Chilcotin Williams Lake

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