The Federal Review Panel released its long-anticipated report on the proposed New Prosperity copper-gold mine on Thursday night, concluding the mine "would result in several significant adverse environmental effects."
The report specifically says that the mine would negatively impact water quality, fish and fish habitat in Fish Lake, land and resource use, and the cultural heritage of two First Nations directly impacted by the proposal.
Additionally, the panel found that the mine would have a "significant adverse cumulative effect" on the south Chilcotin grizzly bear population without considerable mitigation measures in place.
This is the second time the project has been reviewed by a federal panel. In 2010, the original proposal from Taseko Mines Ltd was found to have significant environmental shortfalls and was rejected by the Ministry of Environment.
Taseko then drafted a new environmental impact assessment, and re-submitted it to the Review Panel.
The most recent proposal is for a billion-dollar open pit mine about 50 kilometres south of Williams Lake, that would represent the tenth largest undeveloped gold-copper deposit in the world.
For half a century since its discovery, the deposit has remained buried among the pristine lakes and mountains of B.C.'s remote Chilcotin region.
'This is about the environment — it’s not about cheerleading the benefits of the mining industry.' - Stewart Phillip, Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs
Taseko Vice President Brian Battison said on Thursday that he was confident this time that the panel would not find any significant environmental issues.
"I suppose it would be fair to say everybody's a bit anxious, and by that I mean not only ourselves, but also people in the Cariboo that are looking forward to the project getting a green light,” says Battison.
“It's a priority for the communities of Quesnel, and Williams Lake, and 100 Mile."
In the revamped proposal, Taseko has pledged to spend an additional $300 million to minimize the impacts on Fish Lake, but the federal panel's report found that Taseko underestimated the volume of tailings, water seepage and impacts of recirculation on the water quality in the lake.
"Even with expensive water treatment measures, the protection of Fish Lake water quality is unlikely to success in the long term," the report says.
Local First Nations have been vocal opponents of the project since its inception, claiming it would result in irreparable environmental damage.
“Nothing has changed, “says Stewart Phillip, Grand Chief of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs. “This is about the environment — it’s not about cheerleading the benefits of the mining industry."
While the Federal Review Panel report makes wide-ranging recommendations, it cannot approve or reject the mine. As in 2010, the Ministry of Environment will have final say if the project moves forward.