Canadian Consulting Engineer

Consulting engineers question environmental assessment of B.C. mine

The Association of Consulting Engineer Companies-Canada (ACEC) and ACEC-BC are among the signatories of a letter sent to Joe Oliver, Minister of Natural Resources Canada on December 9.

December 17, 2013   Canadian Consulting Engineer

The Association of Consulting Engineer Companies-Canada (ACEC) and ACEC-BC are among the signatories of a letter sent to Joe Oliver, Minister of Natural Resources Canada on December 9.

The letter expresses concerns over a “potentially precedent-setting” review by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) Review Panel.

The review relates to the proposed New Prosperity Gold-Copper Mine Project, located 125 kilometres southwest of Williams Lake, in the central interior of British Columbia

Taseko Mines is proposing building the open pit mine on a site that covers 27 square kilometres in the Fish Creek watershed. The facilities would include tailings and waste rock areas, an on-site mill, and a 125-kilometre power transmission line.

On October 31 the three-person CEAA panel submitted its report to the federal Minister of the Environment, saying that the project “would result in several significant adverse environmental effects,” including “a significant adverse effect on fish and fish habitat in Fish Lake.”

In their December 9 letter in response, ACEC-Canada, ACEC-BC, the Mining Association of Canada, Mining Association of B.C., the BC Chamber of Commerce, and other organizations say that the environmental revi ew does not accurately reflect the Taseko proposals and the independent review of the project that was carried out by consulting engineers Knight Piesold, “a highly reputable international engineering firm bound by a professional code of conduct.”

In particular, the signatories say that a groundwater model for a tailings pond that was prepared by NRCan does not reflect the actual engineered solution that Taseko is proposing. Taseko’s solution has a low permeability basin liner.

The letter signatories also write: “we understand that on the question of seepage, the independent advisor to the Review Panel was not able to consult with the proponent and its engineers to confirm the actual nature of the design and the effectiveness of proposed mitigation measures.”

They say that without fully taking into account the mitigation measures being proposed by Taseko, the panel may have been led to the wrong conclusions. The signatories are therefore asking the government to reconsider the panel’s recommendations.

“While the review by NRCan may have been made in good faith, we are nevertheless concerned about the precedent this situation may set and the consequences for the resource sector in Canada,” they write. “In this respect, much more than a $1.5 billion project is at stake. In order for the general public as well as current and future project proponents to have confidence in the environmental assessment process and in NRCan’s scientific analysis, we believe it is imperative that appropriate steps be taken to ensure that accurate conclusions are made with respect to the potential for significant adverse effects of this project.”

ACEC was a co-signatory to the letter as part of its increasing advocacy on behalf of the resource sector.

To read the executive summary of the CEAA Review Panel’s report on the New Prosperity Gold-Copper Mine Project, click here.


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