Ottawa erred on B.C. mine review: court
Red Chris project gets green light to proceed
Last Updated: Thursday, January 21, 2010 | 3:52 PM CT
The Supreme Court of Canada unanimously ruled Thursday that a British Columbia mining development can go ahead, even though the court said the project didn't go through all the required environmental assessments.
The Supreme Court sided with the appellant, MiningWatch Canada, which had argued that the Red Chris mine project did not go through a full federal environmental study.
However, the top court also said that because MiningWatch does not have a financial stake in the mine, the project would be permitted to proceed.
In the court's decision, Justice Marshall Rothstein wrote there was no justification to require the mine's owners to repeat the environmental assessment process when MiningWatch had not actually challenged those findings.
'The government can no longer shirk the environmental protection duties that Parliament has assigned to it,'— Lawyer Lara Tessaro, Ecojustice Canada
The Supreme Court noted that MiningWatch brought the issue forward as a test case of the federal government's obligations under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.
The decision is expected to mean that future large development projects will need to go through full environmental reviews.
The case centred on the Red Chris gold and copper mine in northern British Columbia, about 80 kilometres south of Dease Lake. The mine would turn a trout lake into a holding pond for mine waste, and excavate mountains of earth at the rate of 30,000 tonnes a day for decades into the future.
Following an environmental assessment of the project, the B.C. government approved it. The federal government decided it didn't need to conduct a full assessment, opting instead for a screening process. The federal government did not conduct public consultations, choosing to rely on responses to the B.C. assessment.
A coalition of environmental groups sued, saying the federal government had ignored its responsibilities.
Mixed reaction to decision
The Supreme Court's ruling was applauded by environmental groups.
"The Supreme Court has given Canadians back their voice and, with it, their ability to influence major industrial development across the country," said Lara Tessaro, a lawyer with Ecojustice Canada, who represented MiningWatch.
"This landmark decision confirms that the government can no longer shirk the environmental protection duties that Parliament has assigned to it," Tessaro said.
'This could add a huge economic, time, resource burden to work the federal government is already doing.'— Byng Giraud, Association for Mineral Exploration British Columbia
"The court has confirmed that the federal government cannot lawfully split proposed projects into little pieces and assess only pieces of them," she said.
But Byng Giraud, the vice-president of corporate affairs with the Association for Mineral Exploration British Columbia, said the decision raises concerns about the federal government's capability to conduct timely reviews.
"This could add a huge economic, time, resource burden to work the federal government is already doing," Giraud said.
"By removing that ability for them to judge, we've created a problem of resourcing. Frankly, environmental assessment in the North is a very long, long process as it is," he said.
Giraud maintained the federal government should be allowed to delegate to other agencies like the B.C. Environmental Assessment Branch, and noted the laws can still be changed.
"The federal government is required to review the federal Environmental Assessment Act, it has to be reviewed every five years, which is coming up this year, so this is timely," he said.
Latest North News Headlines
- Loose dog shot after attacks in Iqaluit
- The RCMP shot and killed a dog in Iqaluit Wednesday morning after the animal attacked a person outside the Iqaluit NorthMART grocery store. more »
- Community members search for missing Resolute, Nunavut, man
- A ground search is ongoing in Resolute, Nunavut, for a man who has been missing since Saturday. more »
- Search underway for missing Mayo, Yukon man
- RCMP from Whitehorse and Dawson City arrived in Mayo, Yukon Tuesday night to help the local detachment search for a missing man. more »
- Second civil lawsuit against Qulliq Energy wraps up
- Lawyers have wrapped up their final submissions in a second civil lawsuit against the Qulliq Energy Corporation. more »
Top News Headlines
- Sopranos star James Gandolfini dies in Italy
- James Gandolfini, whose portrayal of a brutal, emotionally delicate mob boss in HBO's 'The Sopranos' helped create one of TV's greatest drama series and turned the mobster stereotype on its head, died Wednesday in Italy. He was 51. more »
- B.C. First Nation sets fires to save bison
- A First Nation band is reviving the age-old practice of controlled burning in order to improve the health of forests and restore the population of the wood bison in a corner of northeastern B.C. more »
- Canada buys rare War of 1812 collection for $573K
- The government of Canada was the winning bidder for a large collection of letters, maps and other papers that once belonged to Sir John Sherbrooke, the lieutenant-governor of Nova Scotia who conquered Maine for the British during the War of 1812. The collection sold for $573,000 at auction in London. more »
- Bob Rae quits as MP in 'very emotional' decision
- Bob Rae, who has represented the Toronto Centre riding for the Liberals since 2008, is stepping down as a Member of Parliament to devote more time to his work as a negotiator for First Nations in Northern Ontario. more »
- Yellowknife grandma to paddle 2,000 km solo to Nunavut
- Two Yellowknife men arrested after drug search
- Search underway for missing Mayo, Yukon man
- Whitehorse Catholic school principal won't return to job
- Northern women sewing for North American moccasin project
- Toddler attacked by sled dogs in Igloolik, Nunavut
- Zama spill site shows brown trees, 3 containment sites
- Yellowknife brew pub location to be moved
- Half of First Nations children live in poverty