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

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