After the province green-lighted a gold and copper mine, which promises to bring 250 jobs to northwestern B.C., a First Nations group has signalled intent to fight the project because of “major contamination risk.”
On Friday, Premier Christy Clark’s government issued a permit to the controversial Red Chris Mine near Dease Lake. The mine was already approved by the province, but faced hurdles due to a 2010 Supreme Court of Canada case won by environmentalists.
“The 250 full-time jobs will create stronger families and communities for many years to come,” Clark said in a press release Friday.
However, Tahltan Central Council president Annita McPhee said her council “will look at all options” because officials have not addressed Tahltan Nation “concerns about long-term pollution to our water, and the damage to a landscape.
“The Red Chris Mine would turn a pristine valley and a lake into a tailings pond, and seriously damage Todagin Mountain through the construction of an open pit,” McPhee said in a press release. “Decisions like this, which don’t appropriately take our interests into account, undermine our trust in the province.”
The mine site is owned by Imperial Metals Corp. With an estimated reserve of 276 million tonnes of copper and gold, mine construction is set to begin this summer. The mine will be serviced by the new Northwest Transmission Line, a project which was approved by 82 per cent of Tahltan members, according to the nation’s website.
“We plan to contact the Tahltan as soon as possible to discuss (Tahltan concerns),” he said in an email.
The permitting of Red Chris Mine comes about a week after new federal legislation was introduced, moving to repeal the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.
The federal government intends to streamline resource project approval by giving provinces the responsibility to assess environmental impact of proposals.
A 2010 Supreme Court of Canada ruling on Red Chris Mine, won by the group Ecojustice, upheld the federal government’s duty under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act to complete a full environmental review of the mine.
In an interview Stephen Hazell, an Ottawa environmental lawyer who was involved in the Red Chris court case, said the federal government move is “most convenient for the mining, oil and gas companies,” looking to do business in B.C.
B.C’s Environment Minister, Terry Lake, has endorsed the federal move to put environmental review authority into provincial hands. B.C. government officials were not available for interviews on Saturday.