Friday, February 26, 2010

some thoughts about the mega-mine trend in northern & central BC

I am bothered by current BC & federal government policies aimed at attracting & supporting the establishment of various mega-mine projects throughout northern & central BC. Now first I want to say: I do not have a problem with small-scale prospecting & smaller (especially community-run) mining projects -- provided they do not contaminate local watersheds & are done respectfully (to local environment).

There are a number of mining projects that greatly concern me, but 2 that spring directly to mind are Mount Milligan northwest of Prince George (I have previously blogged about this mine & the process leading up to its "approval" by provincial & federal government). The other is the proposed Prosperity Mine west of Williams Lake that would see Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) drained to become a tailings impoundment area for a gold mine(pursuant to the federal Metal Mining Effluent Regulation). It is an astoundingly breath-taking lake held sacred by the local Tsilhqot'in people.

"It is not possible for us to agree to the destruction of the land that sustains us." ~ Chief Marilyn Baptiste, Xeni Gwet'in First Nation.

A video definitely worth watching about this proposed mine & the local First Nations people's perspective is found at (a big thank you to Susan Smitten).

I find my values & perspective are increasingly becoming aligned with the First Nations elders who hold strong connection to the land & the traditional ways of the Aboriginal people. I feel as though I had blinders on during much of my childhood & young adulthood when I was oblivious to or accepted as 'normal' (just the way it was. . . ) many of the industrial/ resource extraction/ exploitation ways in northern BC. After all I lived in a sawmill town. My dad worked in a mine for part of my childhood. . . and at a sawmill. . . as I get older and watch the precious sacred northern BC landscape come under threat from various directions & sources, I find myself becoming more of an ally of First Nations people, those who are connected with their traditional ways of life.

as a child these industrial jobs my dad had put food on our table. . . but now I wonder, at what greater cost do some of these mega-industrial projects proceed?

Honestly these days, the First Nations elders (in contact with their people's traditional ways) are some of the few people who make any sense anymore. Some of the elders in the Teztan Biny video (referenced above) speak the most profound & simple wisdom. . .

They speak the truth about our earth & how we are all inter-connected and dependent on it.

Is there a way for northerners to make a living while still safeguarding the environment? I think it is becoming increasingly imperative as well-being of the natural environment (and our health) begins to unravel around us. . .

I believe we need to seriously look at whether the Metal Mining Effluent Regulation (enabled pursuant to section 35(2) of the federal Fisheries Act) should even exist. . . I believe that there is something morally flawed about this law -- to allow fishbearing lakes & streams to be redefined as tailings impoundment areas because a handful of humans decide it is the right thing to do seems absolutely WRONG WRONG WRONG.

Who are we to be able redefine natural systems that support the web of life!?

Here is an excerpt from the Red Chris Mine Supreme Court of Canada decision. One thing I really don't get about this case is why this mine is permitted to go ahead by the Court - I mean, it is akin to a case being sent back to trial -- if it was an illegal trial/ process, then it was illegal was it not? But this IS an important decision for the future of mining processes & decisions in BC.

Mining Watch Canada v. Canada (Fisheries and Oceans), 2010 SCC 2

Reasons for Judgment:

Rothstein J. (Binnie, LeBel, Fish, Abella, Charron and Cromwell JJ. concurring)

on appeal from the federal court of appeal

In order to develop a copper and gold open pit mining and milling operation in British Columbia, a mining company submitted a project description to the BC Environmental Assessment Office. Public comment was sought and the Office subsequently determined that the project was not likely to cause significant adverse, environmental, heritage, social, economic or health effects and issued a provincial environmental assessment certificate. The company also submitted to the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans applications for dams required to create a tailings impoundment area. Initially, the Department stated that a comprehensive study was required because the project fell within the provisions of the Comprehensive Study List Regulations (“CSL”) promulgated under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (“CEAA”). It subsequently scoped the project as to exclude the mine and mill and, given this, concluded that a comprehensive study was no longer necessary and that the assessment would proceed by way of screening. Additional public comment was not sought and the screening instead relied on information collected through the cooperative federal/provincial environmental assessment process. The federal screening report concluded that the project was not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects and the responsible authority made the decision to allow the project to proceed. MiningWatch filed an application for judicial review of the decision to conduct a screening rather than a comprehensive study. The Federal Court allowed the application, concluding that the responsible authority had breached its duty under the CEAA by scoping the environmental assessment so that it only required a screening. The court quashed the decision to issue permits and approvals and prohibited further action by the responsible authority until it had conducted public consultation and completed a comprehensive study pursuant to s. 21 of the CEAA. The Federal Court of Appeal set aside the decision.

Held: The appeal should be allowed.

The CEAA and regulations require that the environmental assessment track be determined according to the project as proposed; it is generally not open to a responsible authority to change that level. An interpretation which provides that the word “project” in s. 21 of the CEAA means “project as proposed” by the proponent, rather than “project as scoped” by the responsible authority, is consistent with the statutory definition of that word in s. 2 of the CEAA, the language of the relevant regulations, and with Parliament’s intent as found in the respective roles of the responsible authority and the Minister in conducting environmental assessments under the CEAA. Where, as here, a project as proposed is listed on the CSL, the requirements in s. 21 are mandatory.

Tracking and scoping are distinct steps in the CEAA process. While the responsible authority does not have the discretion to determine the assessment track, once the appropriate track is determined, it has the discretion to determine the scope of the project for the purposes of assessment under s. 15(1)(a) of the CEAA. In the event that the project is referred to a mediator or a review panel under s. 21.1(1)(b), the scope of the project is determined by the Minister after consulting with the responsible authority pursuant to s. 15(1)(b). The presumed scope of the project to be assessed is the project as proposed by the proponent but, as an exception to this general proposition, the responsible authority or Minister may enlarge the scope in the circumstances set out in s. 15(2) or (3). The responsible authority or Minister cannot reduce the scope of the project to less than what is proposed by the proponent. For a project subject to a comprehensive study, the responsible authority can, and should, minimize duplication by using the coordination mechanisms provided for in the CEAA. In particular, federal and provincial governments can adopt mutually agreeable terms for coordinating environmental assessments.

In the present case, the federal environmental assessment should have been conducted for the project as proposed by the proponent. Since the proposed project was described in the CSL, the requirements of s. 21 applied. The responsible authority was free to use any and all federal‑provincial coordination tools available, but it was still required to comply with the provisions of the CEAA pertaining to comprehensive studies. By conducting a screening, the responsible authority acted without statutory authority.

In exercising his discretion to grant the relief he did, the trial judge did not take account of a number of relevant and significant considerations and granted broader relief than was appropriate. MiningWatch has no proprietary or pecuniary interest in the outcome of the proceedings and did not participate in the environmental assessment conducted by the provincial authority. No evidence of dissatisfaction with the environmental assessments conducted by the BC Environmental Assessment Office or the responsible authority and no evidence of dissatisfaction with the assessment process from anyone else was brought forward. MiningWatch has brought this judicial review as a test case of the federal government’s obligations under s. 21. They made a strategic decision not to challenge the substantive scoping decision. When all the relevant considerations are taken into account, the appropriate relief is to allow the application for judicial review and declare that the responsible authority erred in failing to conduct a comprehensive study. No further relief is warranted. The focus of MiningWatch’s interest as a public interest litigant is the legal point to which the declaration will respond and there is no justification in requiring the proponent of the project to repeat the environmental assessment process when there was no challenge to the substantive decisions made by the responsible authority.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Crude Facts info session about Enbridge Northern Gateway project in Prince George BC

Sea to Sands Conservation Alliance
E-mail: Blogsite:

For Immediate Release: February 24, 2010

Information session on the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project

On March 2nd and 3rd, the Sea to Sands Conservation Alliance will be hosting The Crude Facts, two information sessions on the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline and Tanker Project. Speakers from Friends of Wild Salmon, regional First Nations organizations, UNBC and the Sea to Sands Conservation Alliance will speak about the environmental and social risks of this proposed project. “Given the likelihood of oil spills associated with the transportation of bitumen from the tar sands to Asian and American markets, people need to become educated about the potential negative impacts of this project and decide if this type of development will truly benefit northerners” said the event organizer, Sonja Ostertag. The events will take place on March 2nd from 2:30 to 4:30 in Room 6-305 at UNBC and March 3rd from 7:00 to 9:00 at ArtSpace (1685 3rd Ave), Prince George.

Enbridge proposes to construct two parallel pipelines from northern Alberta's tar sands to the port of Kitimat; one pipe will carry crude bitumen, a heavy oil product, to the coast of BC for oil tankers destined to Asian and American oil markets. “I’m concerned about this project because it will accelerate the expansion of the Alberta Tar Sands; the proposed pipelines will cut through traditional territories and could lead to cultural destruction in the case of an oil spill” said local UNBC student and member of the Sea to Sands Conservation Alliance, Adam Thomas. The second pipe will carry condensate inland; condensate is an acutely toxic light hydrocarbon used to transform the thick tar-like substance extracted from the oil sands into a product suitable for pipeline transport. Both products present a distinct threat to fish, wildlife and humans in proximity to any spills.

‘The Crude Facts’ will highlight the potential negative impacts of this project for northerners and their environment. The alliance will continue to organize events in Prince George in the coming months to help inform the public about the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project. S2S formed a Facebook group ( in the fall of 2009 and the group has attracted more than 600 members to date. Citizens interested in learning more or who would like to join the group can email

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

a flame stronger than the Olympic flame burns in the heart of the First Nations women of the North!

Olympics Aren't the Only Games Being Played for Gold in BC
Investors not being given the facts about mining investment risks

VANCOUVER, Feb. 10 /CNW Telbec/ - As the media spotlight shines on the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, a government-industry promotion is hiding the risks of investing in BC's mining industry, First Nations Women Advocating Responsible Mining warned today.

"Crucial facts are being hidden and the global media attention generated by the Olympics is being used to send a false message that BC is a sure gold medal bet for mining investors," said FNWARM member Chief Marilyn Baptise of the Xeni Gwet'in First Nation.

"After a 13-year new-mine drought fuelled by major court rulings on First Nations rights in BC, there now appears to be a campaign to pretend the legal duty to consult and accommodate First Nations no longer exists," added Nak'azdli First Nation councillor Anne Sam.

The message is so one-sided that FNWARM members this week filed a BC Press Council complaint against the Vancouver Sun regarding recent articles that omitted known key facts to leave the impression that the provincial government's star mining projects no longer face serious obstacles and will create a huge revenue bonanza.

In fact they face a number of serious obstacles.

FNWARM is a group of First Nations women leaders from northern BC with a shared goal of promoting responsible mining that respects First Nations rights and cultures and the environment. Their goals include reform of the free-entry access system and environmental assessment review processes to reduce areas of conflict and uncertainty.

"We all face serious attempts to force mining projects on us," said former Lake Babine First Nations Chief Betty Patrick. "We want to work with government and companies to find responsible and respectful solutions to mining impasses in BC, but we are repeatedly faced with attempts to bulldozer us into submission."

Soda Creek Chief Bev Sellars said: "We are shocked by the extent of the steps now being taken to push ahead with mine projects on Xeni Gwet'in and Nak'azdli First Nation traditional lands."

The respective projects are Taseko Mines Ltd's Prosperity gold mine and Terrane Metals' proposed low grade gold/copper Mt. Milligan mine - which are being heavily promoted by the provincial government and media as the vanguard of a new BC mining boom.

Both are threatening to start land clearing and road building in a matter of weeks, even though their projects could be halted by reviews or legal challenges that will take months or longer to complete.

FNWARM hopes to balance the mining hype by providing investors with facts that they have a right to know in order to make informed decisions. For example:

- The future cannot be guaranteed for projects that proceed against
First Nations objections on their traditional lands, which cover the
entire province.
- The vast majority of BC First Nations have never signed treaties or
ceded any territory or resources;
- The courts have repeatedly established that - pending resolution of
their title and rights - these First Nations must be consulted and
- Taseko's proposed Prosperity mine - which would turn an important
pristine lake into a toxic tailing pond - still faces a federal
environment review. Its future is also entangled in two major court
cases involving First Nations rights;
- Terrane Metals' proposed Mt. Milligan Mine is still in the courts
defending against legal challenges to its provincial and federal
environmental assessment approvals. A provincial hearing is scheduled
for March. An application for a federal judicial review was filed in
early January - one day before mining giant Goldcorp declined to
partner on the mine;
- Any money spent on premature work on the mines will be at the
companies' own financial risk, and they will be accountable for
environmental destruction should the projects be stopped.

For further information: Media inquiries: Anne Marie Sam - (011) 250-649-8284,