Photo: Federal government rejects mine plan

Fish Lake is at risk of being destroyed by mining (Credit: Landkeepers).


By John Werring, Aquatic Habitat Specialist

It's important to take time to enjoy a good victory. The recent decision by the federal government to not approve Taseko's proposed mine plan to destroy Fish Lake (called Teztan Biny by the Tsilhqot'in First Nation) is one of those occasions, and we want to thank all of DSF's supporters who helped make this happen.

Taseko's mine plan was not approved on the basis that the environmental and social impacts (particularly those related to First Nations) of the proposal were too great to allow this project to proceed.

However, the government's decision likely wasn't just based on the federal review panel's findings. Thousands of citizens of all political stripes and ethnicities from across Canada made their opposition to this project know to government through personal letters, action alerts and other means (Facebook, Twitter) thanks to information made available to them by the supporters of First Nations and environmental groups like the David Suzuki Foundation, Mining Watch, the Sierra Club of Canada and the Council of Canadians, all of whom unanimously opposed this project. It was a chorus that likely resonated with a great deal of force in the upper echelons of Canada's parliament.

And for that, we thank you (because if you are reading this, you are likely one of those people that voiced opposition to this project).

That being said, the fight to protect Canada's lakes and rivers from the ravages of mining is far from over. There are proposals from mining companies across Canada to destroy our pristine lakes (some remote and some near settled areas) under the guise that to do so is the most environmentally responsible way to manage their toxic waste. But in reality, using lake basins as toxic mine dumps is not about environmental protection. It saves mining companies billions of dollars in mine closure and waste management costs.

For example, Northwest Minerals recently proffered a proposal to dump tailings and waste into a lake in northern B.C. (Duncan Lake). That proposal was also rejected by an environmental review panel, but mining companies continue to propose these ideas because government policies typically support them.

For example, a loophole in the federal Fisheries Act is being exploited by mining companies to "reclassify" healthy freshwater lakes as "tailings impoundment areas." The loophole, called Schedule 2, strips lakes of their normal habitat protection and redefines them as dump sites for toxic mining waste. Some of the lakes currently slated for destruction include Sandy Pond in Newfoundland, Bucko Lake in Manitoba and Bamoos Lake in Ontario. Recent pressure on the Bamoos Lake proposal has caused the company to withdraw its application to use the lake as a tailings dump.

There are no incentives to the mining industry to do things differently (and there are many options available to them for managing their wastes in a more environmentally friendly way) so long as we allow them to continue to make decisions on the basis of return on investment rather than on environmental protection.

You can continue to support us in the fight to protect Canada's lakes and rivers from mining companies by writing to the federal government and demanding that it close the Schedule 2 option under the Metal Mining Effluent Regulations that allows mining companies to designate water bodies as tailings dumps.

November 26, 2010