Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Under New Federal Rules, What Are Environmental Effects? Prosperity Panel Asks

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Under New Federal Rules, What Are Environmental Effects? Prosperity Panel Asks

Article excerpt

What are 'environmental effects,' panel asks

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VANCOUVER - A federal review panel weighing the future of a stalled gold and copper mine in the B.C. Interior is wondering just what, exactly, the panel is supposed to be assessing in the wake of federal changes to the environmental assessment process.

The billion-dollar New Prosperity mine proposed by Taseko Mines Ltd. (TSX:TKO) was already rejected once by a previous Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency panel, although it received provincial approval.

The company changed the plan for the mine near Williams Lake, B.C., and the revised project was referred to the federal agency for assessment in November 2011.

Then, last year the Conservative government made changes to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, and last August Environment Minister Peter Kent amended the terms of reference for the panel.

Those changes were to "clarify the reporting requirements to ensure the panel's report identifies those conclusions and recommended mitigation measures that relate to the 'environmental effects' to be taken into account...," Kent said in a letter to the panel.

But it appears they do anything but.

The definition of "environmental effects" is different in the new terms of reference than it is under the new act.

In a March 4 letter to the federal environmental assessment agency, the panel asked which definition should guide their review.

The difference could be significant.

Jay Nelson, the lawyer for the Tsilhqot'in National Government, said the old definition was broad but the new definition lists specific areas for consideration.

"The whole point of this second review is meant to see whether the company has really addressed these fairly substantial cultural and environmental impacts," Nelson said.

"Now the company is arguing that this new panel shouldn't be able to look at the same environmental effects that the original panel did, that it's range in narrower ... If that's the case, it calls into questions the whole purpose of this second review."

For example, the original panel found the project could have significant impact on grizzly bears. …

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