Owners of B.C.'s controversial Prosperity mine have launched a second attempt to get the $1-billion project approved.
The gold and copper mine near Williams Lake was opposed by First
Nations and ultimately failed an environmental assessment, released in
July 2010 by the federal environment ministry.
The B.C. environment ministry had already aproved the project
On Monday, Taseko Mines Ltd., of Vancouver, submitted a revised plan
for the mine that addressed the major concern of both natives and
officials — the proposed destruction of Fish Lake.
The original proposal called for the lake to be drained and turned
into a dump for toxic tailings from the mine, poisoning much of the
watershed in which it lies.
That would wipe out 90,000 rainbow trout, according to the Tsilhqot'in and Secwepemc First Nations.
The company said there was no alternative.
Metal prices up sharply
Taseko's new proposal now would preserve Fish Lake and all its aquatic life, the company said.
What's changed is the price of gold and copper, making it possible to
pay for a more expensive solution to the waste problem, said CEO
"Price projections for copper average about $2.50 [per pound] and for
gold above $1,000 [per ounce], nearly two times the prices we used in
our original assessment," Hallbauer said. "We are now able to consider
and advance this new design proposal which adds construction costs and
life of mine operating expenditures of approximately $300 million."
The company said in a release Monday that the proposal greatly
reduces environmental impacts [and] preserves Fish Lake and its
There is no timeline for environmental approval, but Taseko said it
hoped the environmental assessment would only have to review the aspects
of the proposal that have changed.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper says his government would reject high-level lobbying to revive the Prosperity Mine project.
Christy Clark, seeking the leadership of the B.C. Liberals, had promised
to press Ottawa to change its decision on the $800-million mine if she
became premier, but Mr. Harper told reporters on Monday that he was not
interested in “political bargaining” over the fate of the project.
Mr. Harper was not referring specifically to Ms. Clark’s pledge, but
rather to a question about a possible bid by B.C.’s next government to
save the project. A new premier will be elected Feb. 26 by B.C.
“The government has rendered a decision. That decision is final. That’s a
legal decision,” Mr. Harper said during a news conference.
“We acted on a comprehensive federal environmental assessment that was
absolutely categorical and we have invited the proponent to redesign the
project if the proponent is interested in proceeding in a way that
would respect the myriad and serious environmental concerns that were
raised by that assessment,” Mr. Harper said.
“These kinds of decisions are made on the basis of facts – not just
economic facts, but also environmental facts in this case, and
proponents will have to address that. This is not a matter of political
Mr. Harper’s comments came as Taseko Mines Limited, leading the project,
said Monday it had submitted a new proposal for the copper and gold
The company said in a statement it can now save Fish Lake, near the
community of Williams Lake, which was a point of concern in their
previous submission. Such an effort would add $300-million to the
planned $800-million project.
The company said it has been assured by the federal government that it
wants to see resource projects developed, and is only opposed to the way
Prosperity was originally proposed.
A provincial assessment of Prosperity supported the original project but
acknowledged the controversial planned destruction of Fish Lake to
store toxic waste from the mine.
B.C. was looking forward to the predicted $5-billion economic injection
over the 20-year life of the mine and $600-million of revenue for
various governments, in a region of the province devastated by the
mountain pine beetle. The destruction of Fish Lake was vehemently
opposed by local natives, who hold it to be a sacred site.
However, the project was eventually rejected by the federal government after a negative environmental assessment.
A spokesman for Ms. Clark said Monday that the former deputy premier was
only ever interested in supporting the company’s efforts to make the
Enbridge Inc.'s proposed $5.5-billion Northern Gateway pipeline hit renewed waves of opposition this week.
group of first nations communities has publicly vowed to reject the
financial benefits package Enbridge devised to encourage their
participation in the project and the introduction of another
privatemembers is making its way through Parliament seeking to ban oil
tanker traffic off British Columbia's north coast.
night, a group of communities under the name Yinka Dene Alliance told
Enbridge officials at a community meeting in Prince George that they
"categorically reject" a financial benefits package offered by the
company over their environmental concerns about the project.
is no amount of money that would get us involved," Geraldine
Thomas-Flurer, coordinator of the alliance, which represents five
firstnation communities along the pipeline's route in the central
interior of B.C.
"They came to our community in 2005, and in 2005
we told them no, we didn't like what their project stood for," Thomas
Flurer said in an interview, and they still oppose the pipeline, which
is being designed to carry 500,000 barrels per day of Alberta oilsands
bitumen to Kitimat on B.C.'s coast.
The first nations community
view the risks of an oil spill resulting from the project as too high to
be outweighed by the benefits package.
Last week Enbridge
publicly unveiled a benefits package that included preferential
financing for aboriginal communities along the proposed pipeline's route
to buy up to a 10-per-cent equity stake in the project, which could
earn them $280 million over the first 30 years of the projects life.
also vowed that it would hire aboriginals to fill at least 15 per cent
of project's construction jobs and work with communities on strategies
for procurement of goods and services from aboriginal businesses.
an interview last week, Enbridge Northern Gateway president John
Carruthers said the company made the offer because it wants first
nations to be "long-term partners" in the project.
Yinka Dene group is now following the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council in
voicing its rejection of the benefits package.
And in Ottawa
Wednesday, Vancouver Quadra MP Joyce Murray said that her private
members' bill seeking a ban on oil-tanker traffic off B.C.'s coast will
proceed to debate in the House of Commons next month.
The letter from the CEO of the Raven coal project raises the central
issue about the proposed Raven mine: Will this be the first of a number
of mines in the vast coal reserve that stretches from Fanny Bay to near
Skyrocketing world coal prices are accelerating B.C. coal development. Could the mid-Island turn into a miniAppalachia?
The letter states "Compliance Coal Corporation has no plans to develop other properties on Vancouver Island at this time."
Compliance website states: "Compliance's projects in the Comox Coal
Basin are the Raven Underground Coal Project and the Bear Coal Project .
the Comox Joint Venture [60 per cent owned by Compliance] is focused on
developing the Raven Coal Deposit and the nearby Bear Coal Deposit."
Has Compliance dropped its plans to develop the Bear project? If so, perhaps its website should be updated.
addition, perhaps the Compliance slide show presented at its 2009
annual general meeting can be explained. It sets a target of $100
million in revenue by the end of 2012, and mentions properties such as
Wolf Mountain and Anderson Lake, along with rights to coalbed methane.
Has Compliance's ambitious strategy for next year been abandoned?
not, the Raven environmental assessment needs to be expanded to
consider the cumulative environmental effects that additional coal mines
could have. Provincial and federal environment ministers should appoint
an independent panel of experts to hold full public hearings on this
No environmental issue is more important to the people of Vancouver Island.
Legal director Environmental Law Clinic University of Victoria
Re: Industry disputes fish farm sea lice is harming wild salmon, Letters, Feb. 17
irony is likely not lost on most Sun readers. Mary-Ellen Walling,
spokeswoman for the salmon farming organization running glitzy and
expensive ads telling us not to believe everything we hear about farmed
salmon-but giving us few facts to judge-now tells us not to worry about
the impacts of lice on juvenile sockeye. Because they have scales,
juvenile sockeye are resistant to lice, she claims.
She also cites
one outlier study by two veterinarians associated with the farming
industry as a reason not to take sea lice concerns too seriously.
with scales, and larger than juvenile sockeye, have been absolutely
decimated by farm-source lice in Europe. Dozens of papers document this
sad fact. Another paper on B.C. coho published before Christmas suggests
lice have serious impacts on larger predatory fish (with scales no
And, as we pointed out in our original PLOS One paper, lice
are known vectors for transmitting diseases, one of the key concerns
being investigated in the Cohen Inquiry into declining Fraser River
sockeye. But hey, let's keep the facts to a dull roar-and the fingers
pointing elsewhere. Pump up the glitz. Everyone's eyes might just glaze
over, and little will change.
Craig Orr Watershed Watch Salmon Society Coquitlam
There's a sucking sound coming from B.C.'s northwest
corner, barely audible now, but sure to crescendo as the electrical grid
is extended beyond the city of Terrace into a vast copper and gold rich
hinterland after 2013.
The source is the Alaska-B.C. intertie -- a scheme planned and feverishly promoted yesterday
in Juneau, Alaska -- that would connect the Alaska Panhandle to the
North American power grid through northern British Columbia. (See a map here and the sidebar to this story).
Positioned by Canadian and U.S. federal
governments as a green infrastructure project to combat climate change,
this Alaska-driven plan is paving the way for a new resource haul road
through the Iskut River valley to Alaska tidewater.
Activists and at least four northern B.C.
mayors have warned that Bradfield Road will one day provide a closer and
more economical route to funnel B.C. minerals and timber through U.S.
ports, shifting the axis of trade away from Stewart, Kitimat and Prince Rupert.
Nathan Cullen heard all about the Bradfield Road during his first year as the federal MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley
in 2004. "Some Alaskans approached me and said, 'Here's the project,
and we'll put this road in for free, and we'll ship all your goods as a
nice courtesy,'" he says. "If anybody offers you anything for free,
especially from Alaska, you should be worried. The idea of cutting off
Canadian ports from being involved in the resource sector is not on, and
we'll resist it."
But the Northwest Transmission Line (NTL), (see map here)
when fully built out, will extend the North American grid to within 35
miles of the Alaska-B.C. border. Once the grid connection to Alaska is
established, says Chris Zimmer, a Juneau Alaska-based campaign director
for Rivers Without Borders, a resource haul road to Alaska is next.
"The grid intertie is going to need a
right-of-way and access roads, so the next step is formalizing that road
into a resource haul road," says Zimmer. "The Bradfield Road is an
Alaskan road designed to drain future resources out of B.C. at a frantic
and unsustainable rate."
Alaska-BC grid connection moving forward
The B.C. right-of-way for the future Alaska
grid connection is already being explored. In Nov. 2010, the BC
provincial government issued an "investigative use permit"
to North Coast Power Corporation to explore about 25,000 hectares of
Crown land -- a long narrow strip of land extending from the future B.C.
grid terminus to the Alaska border (see map. The expressed purpose of the permit was "investigating the feasibility of a utility line intertie between B.C. and Alaska."
The goal of this intertie, says the Alaska Energy Authority
is to "provide the energy needed for economic development in southeast
Alaska resulting in jobs for Alaskans and providing reliable, less
costly alternatives to diesel generated electricity for Alaskan
They included a £250m sale of leaseholds for commercially valuable forests
to timber companies, measures to allow communities, charities and even
local authorities to buy or lease woods and plans to transfer well-known
"heritage" woods such as the New Forest into the hands of charities.
Babbs, executive director, said: "Some people say signing petitions and
emailing MPs never changes anything, but it did this time.
is what people power looks like, and over half a million of us are
feeling very proud of what we've achieved together today.
keep watching David Cameron to make sure he keeps his word. But right
now it looks like fantastic news for all of us who want to keep our
forests safe in public hands for future generations."
The Woodland Trust welcomed the U-turn but warned the campaign to protect and restore England's ancient forests must go on.
Holden, chief executive of the trust, said: "While we welcome the
removal of threats to public access, there is still an acute need for
better protection of ancient woodland, our equivalent of the
rainforests, and restoration of ancient woods planted with conifers.
have made strong commitments over the past few weeks to increase
protection for ancient woods, and we will be holding them to these
"We must not let public passion and support for our
woods and forests die down and now that ownership is no longer an issue,
we must not lose sight of the need to increase protection for ancient
forests and restore those planted with conifers, a once in a lifetime
opportunity for woodland conservation."
In February 2010, filmmaker Damien Gillis captured the gravel mining operations on the Fraser River with a team of expert biologists and local conservationists. Now, at the 11th hour, this year's planned mining projects have been unexpectedly cancelled. The rationale given by DFO is logistical complications and low market prices for gravel, only confirming critics' position that this program is not about reducing flood risks - and all about money. Watch this video to see what these huge mining operations really look like - and why the ecologically damaging program should be scrapped altogether. Be sure to check out this new report from common sense contributor Otto Langer on the subject as well.
Canada’s two major railroad companies have begun making regular
shipments of oil, in a move that changes how Canadian crude moves to
market – and opens the door to new destinations for energy exports,
Although pipelines continue to carry the overwhelming majority of Canada’s oil production, both Canadian National Railway Co. (CNR-T70.721.582.29%) and Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. (CP-T67.470.470.70%) have begun using their rail networks to deliver crude, moving past technological tests into actual commercial service.
The idea of a “pipeline on rails” has been quietly pursued by both CN
and CP in recent years. The railways believe their tracks can divert
oil to the best possible markets at any given time, freeing energy
producers from the constraints of pipelines, which are built to last for
decades and as a result cannot quickly be changed to accommodate market
The idea has gained speed in the past year, as oil prices
soaring toward $100 (U.S.) a barrel prompt a spike in crude output,
creating new volumes that railroads, which don’t have to wait years to
build new capacity, can spike. And the ability to transport oil by rail
is now building a competitive threat to Canada’s pipeline companies,
which have long been the dominant carriers of crude but are working to
expand into markets – such as Asia and the Gulf Coast – that are already
well-served by rail lines. Rail could, analysts say, prove a viable
alternative to major new projects such as Enbridge Inc.’s $5.5-billion
Northern Gateway, which would deliver Alberta crude to the B.C. West
Though rail deliveries remain modest for now, the ability
to deliver crude by track promises to transform the way oil moves inside
this continent, and how it reaches untapped customers.
unparalleled market reach and flexibility, we feel, gives shippers,
buyers … and refineries new options to explore and new ways to reach
different markets,” James Cairns, vice-president of petroleum and
chemicals with CN, told an Insight Information conference in Calgary
The company has begun sending oil sands bitumen to
California; heavy oil from Cold Lake, Alta., to Chicago and Detroit; and
crude from the Bakken, a fast-growing play in southern Saskatchewan, to
the U.S. Gulf Coast. Though rail does not have the same reach into
production fields as pipe – indeed, rail cars are typically loaded and
unloaded by truck, which is costly – CN boasts that its tracks lie
within 80 kilometres of five million barrels a day of refining capacity,
which is more than double Canada’s entire U.S. exports.
the Bakken trade alone is now filling 250 to 300 rail cars a month;
altogether, the company is moving roughly a unit train worth of crude
per week. A unit train typically consists of 80 to 150 cars; each car
can hold 550 barrels. That means CN is carrying, at most, just over
10,000 barrels per day, far less than the two-million barrels that
pipeline company Enbridge Inc. hauls every day.
And both Enbridge
and rival TransCanada Corp. are aggressively pursuing those areas that
rail is now tapping. TransCanada, for example, recently signed
commitments for 65,000 barrels per day of crude shipments out of the
U.S. Bakken play. Enbridge is also spending heavily to build into the
Bakken, whose lack of pipeline capacity has opened a window for the
railroads. If the pipeline companies are successful, the Bakken rail
exports could be temporary.
Re: Alaska's salmon ranching vs. B.C.'s salmon farms, Letters, Feb. 9
Aquaculture industry advocate Vivian Krause and BC Salmon Farmers
association executive director Mary Ellen Walling can't seem to agree on
whether governments subsidize their industry.
Krause says they do, citing $4.6 million granted by the federal government in 2009-10. Walling adamantly says they don't.
denial is curious as she is quoted publicly in at least one source
(Courier Islander, July 17, 2009) defending federal financial support
for her industry.
Krause's claim is equally dubious. It includes
money from only one source: Fisheries and Oceans Canada. That is just
the tip of the funding iceberg.
A recent academic text, (The
Aquaculture Controversy in Canada, UBC Press, 2010), refers to "the
striking array of direct and indirect subsidies to the aquaculture
industry from Canadian governments."
It identifies several sources
-like Farm Credit Canada and the Western Economic Diversification Fund
-and estimates annual funding for aquaculture from the federal
government at around $50 million.
Provincial subsidies also are
generous, providing millions of dollars in additional support for
upgrades of equipment, production increases and business promotion.
support for industrial development can be a good thing, but in the case
of aquaculture, it should be spent advancing more sustainable uses of
our public resources, like closed containment.
Other assertions by
Krause and Walling -about numbers of jobs created, industry regulation
and salmon biology -are equally suspect.
Aquatic Habitat Specialist, David Suzuki Foundation