Taseko Mines' Draft Environmental Impact Statement proves issues are not being addressed

Date of publication: 
17 July 2012

The Tsilhqot’in National Government issued this press release in response to Taseko’s EIS and a report in the Vancouver Sun on July 17, 2012 by Peter O’Neill entitled ‘B.C. junior miner accued of making “misleading” statement to federal agency.”

CEAA slams document for missing information, inaccuracies, confusing format and poor work

Williams Lake BC – A scathing government review of Taseko Mines Limited’s draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for its second attempt to get approval for its New Prosperity Mine is further proof that the company has no clear plan for this project, the Tsilhqot’in National Government said today.

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) has responded to the draft EIS with nearly 250 comments over 40 pages listing omissions, mistakes, poor figures and shoddy formatting that makes the draft EIS impossible to properly assess. The scathing response slams the draft EIS for being so incomplete on several “aspects that are central to the environmental assessment” that it was not possible to even review those sections. Other deficiencies include complete failure to address critical First Nations’ concerns, assess impacts on Aboriginal rights, or consider impacts on First Nations of the certain destruction of Little Fish Lake and the Nabas region.

“This comes as no surprise to us,” said Tsilhqot’in Nation Tribal Chair Chief Joe Alphonse. “We have said all along that there was no way this plan could work. They should be embarrassed that they handed in a document like this – they are making a mockery out of the entire Environmental Assessment process as well as all other Mining Companies. They should be penalized for such flippant actions.”

“Taseko Mines Ltd. had 18 months to develop its new EIS. This is the same company that stated over and over during the original hearings that its preferred plan was environmentally superior to the other two options; that the mine could not be built without destroying Teztan Biny and then changed its tune as soon as that original plan was emphatically rejected by the Federal Government. This explains to us why they could not develop a respectable new EIS,” said Xeni Gwet’in Chief Baptiste.

Chief Baptiste added: “It is an insult to all involved that the company would present such a poorly developed and researched partial document.”

“That this is the best they could come with up with after 18 months of claiming they had all the answers simply reinforces our position from the start that this whole re-bid was a waste of everyone’s time and resources and should never have been allowed to proceed.”

The CEAA review of the company’s EIS can be viewed on the public record at http://ceaa.gc.ca/050/documents/p63928/80180E.pdf. Some sample comments are provided below.

Attachment – Sample comments (page numbers of table enclosed with federal comments):

There is substantial information missing from this draft EIS. [1]

The quality of all figures provided in the draft EIS is very poor. [1]

Key tables are referred to in the text but are not included in the Table of Contents and were not located in the document. [1]

Overall, there are information gaps on traditional knowledge, archaeological sites, and cultural and spiritual aspects. There is no substantive discussion regarding cultural resources and ceremonial sites. [1]

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. [1]

Please note that concerns have been expressed by First Nations with respect to New Prosperity, many of which are included in this document, that are still applicable concerns in this environmental assessment (e.g. Little Fish lake and Nabas area). [3]

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 Beech Creek. [4]

It appears that no drilling has been completed to investigate the geotechnical characteristics and foundation conditions at the proposed seepage collection ponds at the TSF embankment dams. [5]

Geotechnical drilling in the area of the Tailings Storage Facility, Non-PAG Stockpile and Ore Stockpile is considered inadequate for condemnation drilling purposes. [6] It appears that no drilling has been completed within central and southern portion of the Non-PAG Stockpile and within the northern portion of the Ore Stockpile. [6]

The requirement from the EIS Guidelines to consider community and Aboriginal traditional knowledge in conducting the environmental assessment does not appear to have been considered. [7]

As required by the EIS guidelines, the draft EIS lacks information on the assessment of potential impacts from the Project to all potential or established Aboriginal rights or title. [8]

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. [24]

Please provide dietary data as indicated in Health Canada’s letter of information deficiencies submitted to the Federal Review Panel on May 25, 2009 for the original Prosperity project. A dietary survey of people in the area was suggested by the proponent in the Prosperity EIS. However, the New Prosperity EIS does not contain information on a dietary survey. Without this information, there is no assurance that the foods included and consumption rates of those foods are representative of the First Nations that harvest country foods in the project area. [36]

Post closure risk estimates for consuming arsenic in fish exceed the acceptable thresholds identified and exceed those for the baseline scenario. [36]

Does not mention loss of Little Fish Lake (beyond the reduction of impact on archaeological sites) nor Nabas. [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. [38] The EIS fails to address the potential impacts of the Project on the potential or established Aboriginal rights and title as required by the EIS Guidelines … [39]


B.C. junior miner accused of making “misleading” statement to federal agency

By Peter O’Neil, Postmedia News – http://www.canada.com/technology/junior+miner+accused+making+misleading+...

16 July 2012

OTTAWA – Taseko Mines Ltd. made a “misleading” statement in a submission last month to the federal government about the potential of an earthquake-related environmental accident at its proposed $1.5 billion gold-copper mine in the B.C. interior.

The company also failed to provide adequate information relating to the project’s impact on the local environment and aboriginal rights, according to some of the more than 200 other critical comments made by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) in its July 6 letter to the Vancouver-based junior mining company.

The agency was responding to a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) submitted to federal authorities in early June.

Taseko is making a renewed bid for approval to tap the riches of one of the world’s largest undeveloped gold-copper properties located roughly 125 kilometres southwest of Williams Lake, B.C.

The company says the mine has a net value of more than $3 billion, based on current gold and copper prices, and will generate 71,000 jobs over the mine’s 20-year life.

That was a compelling enough argument to convince the B.C. government to give the project a conditional thumbs-up in early 2010, with the province agreeing that the economic benefits off-set the environmental damage caused by turning Fish Lake into a tailings dump.

But Taseko’s plans were shot down in a CEAA report later that year that then-federal environment minister Jim Prentice called “scathing.”

Among the numerous “information gaps” and questionable statements made in Taseko’s June 6 draft EIS was the company’s assertion that the mine is in a “seismically stable region” of Canada.

“This is a misleading statement,” the CEAA said on one of the 45 pages of comments about the company’s initial report.

While the mine itself would located in an area with historically low seismic activity, the CEAA noted that it is “immediately adjacent to a very seismically active region.”

There have been 207 earthquakes over the past 20 years within 100 kilometres, and 1,900 within 200 kilometres, the document noted.

Taseko’s bid to get project approval has been launched amidst the Harper government’s aggressive campaign to encourage natural resource investment as an antidote to combat global economic uncertainty.

That effort has included legislation to reduce bureaucratic hurdles, attacks on environmentalists, and even criticism of its own bureaucrats and regulators for being over-zealous.

But if the federal government is trying to grease the tracks for companies such as Taseko, that message didn’t get through to federal officials from six federal departments, who along with the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office had numerous issues with the draft EIS.

The EIS “did not meet the requirements of the EIS guidelines,” wrote Lisa Walls, director of CEAA’s Pacific and Yukon region, in the July 6 letter.

The company document left out “critical aspects” federal fisheries officials need to consider about impact on fish and fish habitat, according to the letter.

“The reviewers identified sections of the draft EIS where information specified in the EIS guidelines is missing, presented in insufficient detail to enable a determination of the potential environmental effects of the project, and/or presented using methodologies that would also preclude such a determination,” Walls wrote.

Brian Battison, Taseko’s vice-president of corporate affairs, stressed its draft document was “not meant to be complete” and the company’s finalized EIS will be able to benefit from the government’s feedback.

“There is nothing raised in CEAA’s comments that we have not anticipated or that will be difficult to respond to in what will be our final EIS submission,” he said in an email.

Taseko, in its written reply last week to the CEAA, said it was the company’s “understanding” that the company’s draft was only an “administrative step and would not be posted on the public registry.”

Environment Minister Peter Kent announced last November the Vancouver-based company would get another chance to get approval for the mine that was rejected in 2010.

The company has boasted that its new proposal satisfies concerns voiced about the project’s likely impact on the environment and First Nations. That has been accomplished by spending an extra $300 million to drop plans to use Fish Lake as a tailings dump, and instead build a new tailings storage facility two kilometers upstream from Fish Lake.

“We have made significant efforts to address all the necessary requirements for final federal approval,” Taseko President Russell Hallbauer said in a press release last month.

The agency’s letter was accompanied by 45 pages of detailed comments on a wide range of deficiencies, starting with an opening volley from the CEAA suggesting Taseko’s document was poorly prepared.

“There is substantial information missing from this draft EIS. Deficiencies listed below are not an exhaustive list of the missing information,” began the opening comment of the 45 pages of deficiencies. “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.”

Among the critiques:

- The EIS doesn’t meet federal guidelines requiring the company to deal with “previously identified potential impacts to aboriginal potential and established rights.”

- It lacks information on project “insurance and liability management.”

- Details on plans to consult and engage local First Nations, hire aboriginals and procure from First Nations companies, and consider other “corporate social responsibility” matters, is “missing or incomplete.”

- The company’s plans to pump groundwater away from the area of the proposed tailings facility, in order to prevent “slope failure” on its walls, alters natural underground water flows and therefore increases “risks for contamination” of area groundwater.

- There is also “insufficient information regarding proposed measures to control and collect seepage” from the tailings facility. And the EIS doesn’t spell out its planned emergency response actions in the event the tailings facility walls suffer a “structural failure.”

- “The requirement from the EIS guidelines to consider community and aboriginal traditional knowledge in conducting the environmental assessment does not appear to have been considered. The EIS is inadequate if this has not been done.”

- The draft EIS doesn’t include a full assessment of the project’s impact on fish and fish habitat in the area, or provide a fish habitat compensation plan.

- The potential impact of climate change on the mine’s infrastructure over the 20-year life of the mine is only “cursorily addressed.”

- One “information gap” concerns the need for an assessment of the potential impact of increased vehicle traffic in the area on the local grizzly bear population.

- The company was asked “why potential human exposure to mercury in drinking water . . . and fish was not evaluated.”

- The EIS failed to take into consideration the impact on aboriginal rights resulting from the elimination of fishing rights in Little Fish Lake and Fish Creek as a result of the mine.

- Taseko, asked in the EIS guidelines to assess “the probability of accidents and malfunctions,” responds by referring to the “possibility” of such problems. “A ‘possibility’ is not a probability,” the federal document noted.

- Taseko didn’t meet the requirement to assess possible worst case scenarios such as “tailings impoundment structural failure, accidental explosion, earthquake or landslide into the tailings impoundment.”

- Taseko, in its EIS submitted to Ottawa on June 8, said that “at the time of writing this EIS the terms of reference for the review panel have not been finalized, nor has a panel been appointed.”

Wrong, federal authorities replied. “The draft EIS was submitted June 8. The panel was appointed and the (terms of reference) was published on May 9.”