“New” Prosperity Mine Proposal

For twenty years Taseko Mines Limited (TML) has tried to get approval for a low-grade, copper and gold mine at Teztan Biny (Fish Lake.)  It’s one of the most contested mining projects in Canada, and has major environmental issues, without the free, prior and informed consent from the First Nations affected.

Xeni Elder Gilbert Solomon Drumming at Teztan Biny

Xeni Elder Gilbert Solomon Drumming at Teztan Biny

Real Prosperity is Clean Water

The name of this proposed mine, “Prosperity”, is ironic, given the devastation that it would mean for lands and waters that continue to provide our people cultural and spiritual prosperity.  The company itself, Taseko Mines Ltd., takes its name from a river near the proposed mine site, which feeds our communities and the Fraser River with its wild salmon runs.  We are deeply concerned that, beyond the immediate destruction of the mine’s footprint in this critical cultural area, there is a serious risk of contamination of the Taseko River and on to the Fraser River, which provides one of the most abundant salmon runs in the world.  The English name for the Taseko River, and for the company itself, is taken from our ancient Tsilhqot’in name for this river – the Dasiqox.

The original Prosperity mine plan was assessed by an independent federal Panel in 2010 after a series of public hearings.  The Panel issued a report identifying an unprecedented range and magnitude of cultural and environmental impacts, including devastating impacts on Tsilhqot’in culture, heritage and Aboriginal rights.  The Panel’s report was described by the (then) federal Minister of Environment as one of the most ‘scathing’ reviews he had ever read.

Taseko Mines Ltd.'s 2009 Prosperity Mine Proposal (Called MDP #3), which was rejected

Taseko Mines Ltd.’s 2009 Prosperity Mine Proposal (Called MDP #3), which was rejected

Same Plan, New Name

Days after the November 2010 rejection of the previous proposal, the company announced that it would resubmit a new plan.  The revised plan, renamed the “New” Prosperity Mine, is now before a second federal Review Panel.  There are reasons to believe that this revised plan is in fact worse than the previously rejected proposal, despite the claims by the company that it has somehow ‘saved’ Teztan Biny.

In fact, this “New” Prosperity application turns out to be a re-working of an earlier alternative mine design, called Mine Development Plan #2, which the previous Panel, Environment Canada and the company itself agreed posed an “even greater longterm environmental risk.”  Many of the project components remain exactly the same, including placing a massive open pit in close proximity to Teztan Biny (Fish Lake), and destroying Yanah Biny (Little Fish Lake) and the Tsilhqot’in homes and graves located near that lake, to make way for a massive tailings pond.

Taseko Mines. Ltd.'s 2009 EIS Alternative #2 for the Prosperity Mine and the basis for the "new" Prosperity proposal

Taseko Mines. Ltd.’s 2009 EIS Alternative #2 for the Prosperity Mine and the basis for the “new” Prosperity proposal

2012 "New" Prosperity Proposal

2012 “New” Prosperity Proposal

Project Components

The “new” Prosperity mine proposal is a 20-year open pit and very low grade copper and gold mine.  The pit would be 1.6Km wide and over 500m deep, and located less than 500 metres from the outlet of Teztan Biny (Fish Lake), which would be dammed at its outlet. There are both serious cultural and environmental issues with the mine proposal, including the ability of the company to maintain the physical and biological function of Teztan Biny, despite its claims to be “saving” the lake with the new plan.  The previous proposal was to drain Teztan to use it as a nearby location for waste rock dumps.

Diagram Showing Proximity of the Open Pit with Teztan Biny (Fish Lake), including the 20-year and 33-year versions of the mine

Diagram Showing Proximity of the Open Pit with Teztan Biny (Fish Lake), including the 20-year and 33-year versions of the mine

The relocation of a 4 km x 3 km tailings pond, 2 km upstream of Teztan Biny, is the main change in the company’s ‘new’ proposal. The tailings pond would be contained by a 35 story dam, along with 2 other secondary dams above Big Onion Lake and Beece Creek/Wasp Lake.  The polluted tailings water would pose an ongoing threat of contamination into Upper Fish Creek and Teztan Biny, Wasp Lake and Beece Creek (tributary of Lower Taseko Lake), and the tributaries above Big Onion Lake.  The mine plan proposes that the tailings water would eventually flow into these creeks and lakes.  All of these water courses and groundwater flow to the Taseko River, merely a kilometre away and 300 metres lower in elevation.  The mine tailings, waste rock, ore stockpile and the mined-out pit walls  will leach heavy metals have acid-generating sulphides that will negatively affect water quality.

The majority of other project components remain the same as the rejected proposal, including a mill, workers camp, a haul road, and a 160km transmission line that would cross Tl’esqox, Yunesit’in and  Secwepemc territories.  The ‘new’ proposal still eliminates Yanah Biny (Little Fish Lake), large portions of Upper and Lower Fish Creek, and substantial portions of the Nabas region, which are intimately connected to Teztan Biny as the spawning grounds for Teztan`s unique wild trout population and an important wetland habitat for moose, grizzly bear, and other fur-bearing animals. Tsilhqot’in members have been born and raised in this area.  We actively hunt, trap, fish, gather plants and medicines, graze horses and cattle, and conduct spiritual ceremonies on these lands and waters, as we have done for generations.  Ancestors are laid to rest here.  One family is in the process of rebuilding its family homestead on these lands.  All of this would be permanently buried under a toxic tailings pond.

For further details, see Cultural Impacts and Environmental Impacts from the Project and 2010 Panel.