Thursday, April 15, 2010

Prosperity Mine Environmental Hearing (affecting Fish Lake and area) in 100 Mile House. Testimony - Post No.2

GENERAL HEARING SESSION - (Day and Evening Sessions)
March 26, 2010
Volume 8 Pages 1221 to 1425

Held at:

The Lodge & Conference Centre
Valley Room
100 Mile House
British Columbia

Presentation of the Lower Bridge Creek Water Stewardship Society by Gordon Hoglund

MR. HOGLUND my name is Gordon Hoglund, H-O-G-L-U-N-D, and I'm speaking on behalf of the Lower Bridge Creek Watershed Stewardship Society.

I'm a relative newcomer to the Cariboo, only been here 40 years and when I'm speaking with people who have had innumerable generations born here, I do feel like a newcomer.

We have several concerns about the Taseko Mine's proposed Prosperity Gold-Copper Mine Project in the Chilcotin area of British Columbia.

First, the use of Fish Lakes as a tailings pond, a core component of the scheme, is highly questionable. Prior to 2002, this would never have been allowed to happen. Under the Federal Fisheries Act at that time, this lake would have been protected.

But, in 2002, the Metal Mining Effluent Regulation of the act was introduced and suddenly freshwater lakes can now, identified freshwater lakes can now be used as tailings ponds.

This was a gift, I'm not saying it was paid for, but it seems to me that it was a gift to mining companies.

Anyway, the destruction of a presently viable wild lake for the short-term economic benefits of the mine is to turn the calendar back to a time when we gave corporate interests carte blanche with regards to the environment.

In the face of worldwide ecological collapse, it is unwise to start a project that has, at its centre, the potential destruction of a freshwater ecosystem.

To suggest that a man-made lake can adequately replace a fully functioning natural one, borders on the absurd.

In addition, as pointed out and demonstrated by Dr. David Levy's Review of Prosperity Mine's Aquatic Assessment, MiningWatch Canada, November 2009:
"The compensation proposal is inadequate and does not account for differences and literal habitat between Fish and Prosperity Lakes, time lags and artificial lake functionality, inherently lower trout production in Prosperity Lake, and predicted reduction in Prosperity Lake productivity over time."
When these factors are considered, Prosperity Lake would need to be four to five times larger than the proposed to meet the No Net Loss principle, the DFO Policy for the Management of Fish Habitat.
And I hope that the DFO Policy for the Management of Fish Habitat and the No Net Loss principle are still standards to be met.

Our concern is compounded by the fact that the destruction of Fish Lake by filling it with tailings and slag produced from the mine was predicated on the mine having an operational lifetime of 20 years.
Taseko, on November 2nd, 2009, announced that Prosperity might operate for 33 years. A 67 percent increase in operational time.

No one seems to know what the cumulative environmental effect of this change will be, nor where the extra waste in this relatively inefficient mine operation will end up.

We're told it will be piled higher.

This really puts in question many of the conclusions reached in the Prosperity Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS, which is, by the way, a very amazing document.

I found it really informative and I really - the amount of work that went into this document, if you haven't read the sections that you're interested in, you really should, because it contains a lot of great information.

You can mine a lot, even kernels of gold from this document.

Second, the proposed mine lies within the traditional territory of the Tsilhqot'in First Nation People who have not voiced approval for this industrial intrusion to take place in their backyard.
Indeed, two First Nations spokeswomen, Chief Marilyn Baptiste, who spoke here recently, just a few minutes ago, and Anne Marie Sam wrote in The Vancouver Sun February 16th, 2010:
"This mine would kill the pristine and culturally and ecologically important Fish Lake by turning it into a massive toxic tailing pond."
They also note the Tsilhqot'in have a court case underway to establish fishing rights and protect Fish Lake.

Without First Nation approval, this Project should not go ahead.

On page 96 of the B.C. Environment Assessment Office, EAO Report for the Project, it is noted that:
"Cross dating and information provided by First Nation communities suggest the continual use of Fish Lake locality from approximately 5500 BP."
BP or "before present" means the First Nations Peoples have used this area since roughly 3550 B.C..

We don't feel that the First Nations people are going to take solace in the concluding statement of page 98 of the same report:
"EAO is satisfied the Proposed Project is not likely to have significant adverse effects on archaeological and heritage resources."
To me, it borders on the absurd.

We sincerely hope that Federal authorities do not reach a similar conclusion.

You should keep in mind that the archaeological stuff that was done by Terra Archeology contains a bit of a disclaimer in part of its summary.

It says:
"It is important to note this assessment is intended to identify physical archaeological evidence of past human activity protected under the Heritage Conservation Act. It does not address traditional land use or other heritage concerns of the First Nation people with asserted traditional territory in the study area."
It's a historical record only.

If this Project does go forward without strong First Nation consent, we believe that national and international media will react to it in much the same manner as they would if China, without the consent of resident Tibetans, decided to destroy a part of Tibet for economic returns most fully felt in the stock markets of China.

A third concern is the amount of groundwater to be pumped from deep local aquifers to supply the immense needs of the mine operation.

Freshwater consumption is at least 1,200,000 cubic metres per year, according to the EIS, Volume 3, page 6-45. I've seen other figures that place it at close to 4 million. 1,200,000 cubic metres is 1 billion 200 litres. This is a huge amount of fresh water going out of deep aquifers.

Even though Taseko proposes a massive water reclamation process, the long-term impacts on the local aquifers and watersheds are really unknown.

Of note is the following comment by John S. Adams, a senior vice-president, investments, for a Swiss banking conglomerate, UBS Financial Services, that appeared in his article:
"If we don't invest to protect our natural world, we'll plunge our economy into crisis."
Vancouver Province, March 17, 2010.
"When watersheds no longer provide freshwater, forests no longer help prevent droughts and floods, and oceans no longer support healthy fish stocks, governments will be called upon to provide these services in other more expensive ways. Yet expenditures on extracting natural resources globally now dwarfs spending on conserving nature by over 100:1.
This is a stunning imbalance. We must protect the ecosystems that provide trillions of dollars worth of goods and services to humanity each year before they crash like the world financial system did."
We believe it's time for Canada to lead the way in recognizing the innate importance of the natural world by curbing enterprises that call for an inordinate amount of destruction to natural systems.
Prosperity Mine may lead to a sense of well-being for its investors, but it does not address many local unemployment concerns. It's hardly a panacea for this problem.

We heard some statistics that I wished I had heard earlier so I could be better prepared to question them.

But anyway, I'll carry on as I have here.

During an average operating year, less than 2 percent of the regional service area labour force will be employed at the mine and their wages will represent less than three percent of the total wages paid in that same regional area service, Williams Lake and surrounding regional districts.
This is from EIS, their document, volume 6, 2-21.

It's not to downplay the importance of these jobs, it's just that the number looks large when you say it as a number. When you look at it as a percentage of the actual number of people employed in an area, it is quite small.

Many of these employees would likely come from beyond local and regional labour markets, as was mentioned. And its stated right there in EIS, volume 6, page 2-9: "And equally probable, very few will be from the First Nations labour force." Stated indirectly twice in EIS the Environment Impact Study, volume 6, page 2-11 and 2-13.

Even the spin-offs, it sounds large, a thousand spin off jobs. That's 1,000 of 25,000. That's a 4 percent decrease in an area where unemployment in the Williams Lake area is often, even worse now, I think, 10 percent. So even with this $800 million enterprise going in, it is not going to significantly solve the employment situation in that region on its own.

But the jobs are worth having, I'm sure. I'm not trying to belittle that, but look at it in terms of just what the impact really is. For these relatively small income numbers, the integrity, stability and beauty of this naturally thriving, that is presently prosperous - and I kind of resent them stealing that word, by the way - by all, that the community will be permanently altered.

We must go beyond the thought that Crown and public lands have no value other than the potential products buried beneath or growing in the soil. We must move towards a concept inherent in the attitude of some First Nations Peoples toward the land.

In essence, the land is their church, the place where sacred and essential ceremonies and rituals take place. If you desecrate the land, you disrespect the people by destroying evidence of their heritage.

In closing, we find it ironic that GoBC, the unofficial BC Travel and Tourism Guide, has printed postcards of wilderness sites they view as must-sees by visitors to our province. We leave you, and I left with the Panel, a postcard featuring Fish Lake in the Chilcotin.

We believe that the destruction of this Crown-owned, unpolluted freshwater ecosystem with deep intrinsic values to the First Nation people is too high a price for the benefits promised by this Project.

Thank you.

The New Campaign to protect Fish Lake  2012 - 2013

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Prosperity Mine Environmental Hearing (affecting Fish Lake and area) in 100 Mile House

Many powerful presentations made the case strongly against the plan, which includes filling pristine Fish Lake with mine tailings.  The few presentations in favour (beyond those from the mining company, Taseko) were based on the usual mantra of dependence on the mine to provide jobs which provide taxes which pay for social services.

As it happens, the South Cariboo has at least two well-advanced projects that are likely to provide increased income and employment for the area:
And these are sustainable: environmentally, socially and economically; no devastated environment left behind after 20 years.

I requested and was given permission by Martin Zibeau to publish his presentation to the 100 Mile House hearing (you can reach him at zibeau.ecojournal at

Presentation by Martin Zibeau at the Federal Environmental Assessment Hearing for the Prosperity Gold Mine (Fish Lake) Proposal


GENERAL HEARING SESSION - (Day and Evening Sessions)
March 26, 2010
Volume 8 Pages 1221 to 1425


Held at:

The Lodge & Conference Centre
Valley Room
100 Mile House
British Columbia

Presentation by Martin Zibeau

I was born in Quebec City.

And that was 42 years ago and as I've been listening to people talking today, I realize that in the very short period of time, Quebec City has gone from a very small, well, a fairly small town, and even we can go back 400 years ago where it was pristine and we could drink water everywhere, to now where it's impossible to actually drink the water from anything two hours of driving, to a two-hour driving radius.

I just want to give you a little bit of background on me. I just came from Yellowknife in the Northwest Territory where I've lived the past 10 years. And in a mining town, well, which is Yellowknife, a fairly big mining town, that the native people call Sumbukay (phonetic), which is the place where the money is, and it is also the place where a high rate of social problems are.

And now we've moved here in the area about six months ago. And I couldn't help but to come to the hearings today to share or just to participate as a Canadian citizen in a process like that to, to voice my concerns and to share my ideas.

And I hope that at some point more people, ordinary people like myself will take the stand and not fear that you have to be a specialist to talk about our own environment, the place we live in.

I have written a few words and those words are harsh. And they came out of my heart and my head but I still mean them as respectfully as I can.

And I will be speaking to the people of the mine Project, but I certainly do not wish to attack anybody personally.

The Project itself, as you probably will figure out, I don't believe is a good idea, but I certainly don't want to appear as wanting to attack anybody personally. And that's true for the Panel as well. So I will read my words.

I would like to say as politely as I can that the so-called Prosperity Mine has to be one of the most insensitive projects I have ever heard of. Once again, in the name of prosperity, we, through the decision making processes of our government are willing to defy the laws of reason and of logic. I would like to understand how we have come to think that we have the power to move a lake thousands of years old, a self-reliant well-functioning ecosystem from one place to another. And for what? Is it for gold and copper? If this is the answer, here is a suggestion: Mine the dumps of the world until no gold and no copper is found in the millions of dumps of the world. Leave the natural world along.

As a Canadian citizen, a long-time taxpayer, I am appalled to see that this kind of project is even considered.

Members of the Panel, I can imagine how complicated your job is assessing this Project. I can imagine how deep under bureaucratic kerfuffle you find yourself at the end of a journey like the one you are on now. Yet, I cannot imagine that justice, the law, or whatever else you want to call it, may provide the kind of buffer that you would need, you would be needed to live with yourself after okaying such a grossly disruptive project.

How could we, in 2010, knowing in what state the world is in, still think of allowing an open pit mine when what we really need to preserve our green spaces, which are the lungs of our planet.

Is money the only thing anyone working for the government cares for?

Are a few slightly richer stakeholders enough to justify the kind of damage we are about to cause?

Is there still room at the Assessment Agency for the question: How many Canadian citizens will benefit from this Project compared to how many will be harmed and for how long?

To the lucky few that will be lining up at the doors of Taseko Mines for a job, I would like to ask if the few dollars that they will bring home will offset the damages caused to their own neighbourhood?

What legacy are you going to leave to your children's children by taking part in such a project?

I can understand the appeal that a saviour like a big mining company can have on people. But let's not forget what these saviours leave behind when they have sucked the life out of the land and out of the spirit of the people they cared so much about.

Is it worth it?

There are other more sustainable options that could benefit members of a community in the long-term.

Instead of accepting that our government keeps spending large amounts of money to assess and rubber stamp projects proposed by big corporations that greatly benefit small numbers of people, we should demand that this money be spent helping us organize ourselves to create a future that we can be proud of.

I could not leave without underlining how embarrassed I feel regarding the treatment we give the members of our Canadian First Nations.

How is it possible for us to feel so superior to a people to whom we owe so much?

Please correct me if I am wrong, but haven't they taken care of the land we live on for thousands of years before we came and wrecked it, exploited it ruthlessly in just a few hundred years?

Should we not listen to the wisdom of the Elders for our own sake instead of bullying them like we do?

I really hope that one day we can set our feeling of superiority aside and use our intelligence to stop and listen for a little while.

And maybe then will we be able to stop being afraid.

Yes, I think we are afraid of these people that we have been living with for so long and of whom we have so little knowledge. Let's stop being afraid and let's sit face-to-face, people-to-people, governing-body-to-governing-body, and prove that there is still a possibility for adult human beings to be reasonable, efficient, and respectful.

I would be lying if I said that I am not angry.

But I am also worried for the future of my children if we continue to let our government be lobbied out of reason.
We need to react to the inbreeding created by the passing between the corporate world and the governmental world of individuals we elect.

The division that should exist between those two worlds is starting to be blurry for the citizen that I am. Therefore, it is harder and harder for me to trust that a Panel like this one is working in my best interests and the best interests of the rest of us ordinary citizens instead of in the interests of corporations.

If you cannot protect us from the doings of corporations, whose top priority is making money for their shareholders and not our collective well-being, then who will?

And finally, I would like to make a suggestion. If this Project goes ahead, and I strongly remember that it doesn't, in case it hasn't been clear so far, the names associated to the infrastructures, tailing ponds, access roads, the open pit, et cetera, should bear the names of the players in the Project.

Instead of the Prosperity Mine, I suggest that we call it the "Russell Hallbauer Mine" in honour of the President and CEO and the Director of Taseko.

To remember what happened to Fish Lake, the "Ronald Thiessen, Taseko Chairman and Board of Director, Tailing Pond." And surely, to remember how it came to be, the "Bob Connelly Access Road."

If this project ends up being as great as I assume you think it may be, then I will be glad in 20-some-years to admit that I was wrong about the "Russell Hallbauer Mine."

The New Campaign to protect Fish Lake  2012 - 2013