Terrane Metals Corp. is proposing an open pit gold-copper mine in central BC near the town of Fort St. James and within the traditional territories of the McLeod Lake Indian Band and the Nak'azdli Nation. The two nations are not in agreement over the project proceeding with the Nak'azdli whose members kayho (traditional hunting, trapping and gathering area) will be affected directly, opposing the project. McLeod Lake, whose land settlement agreement with BC includes the project area, showed some early indications of supporting the project but without any kind of formal agreement with Terrane they are not currently supporting the project.
The project has had financial backing from one of Canada's largest mining companies and the world's second largest gold company Goldcorp.
The project has undergone a provincial environmental assessesment and received approval from the province in March 2009. A "comprehensive' review of the project was conducted by the federal government and is in the final stage of decision making. MiningWatch submitted comments on the federal government's comprehensive study report in October 2009.
Because the proposed tailings dam will result in the elimination of fish habitats in Alpine Creek and totally eliminate all fish habitat within King Richard Creek, the mine requires an amendment to Schedule 2 of the Metal Mining Effluent Regulations to reclassify the creeks as "tailings impoundment areas". (More on Schedule 2.) MiningWatch participated in the amendment consultation in Gatineau Quebec and submitted comments to Environment Canada. We found that the proposed habitat compensation plan was insufficient to compensate for the habitats that will be lost if the project goes ahead. Terrane's process for selecting its final mine plan was also very limited and only considered options that involved the destruction of fish habitats.
December 3rd, 2009 Update
On December 1 the Minister of the Environment accepted the conclusions of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Natural Resource Canada's Comprehensive Study Report for Mt. Milligan. The Minister concluded that:
- no additional information is necessary and that there are no public concerns that need to be further addressed;
- the project, taking into account the mitigation measures described in the comprehensive study report, is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects; and
- the mitigation measures and follow-up program described in the comprehensive study report are appropriate for the proposed project.
This decision is in despite of ongoing concerns raised by three First Nation communities including the Nak'azdli, whose Chief Fred Sam responded to the announcement by saying that "investors and the public need to be aware that the province and federal government ignored all of our concerns about the impacts of this proposed mine on our traditional lands and their vital headwaters and watersheds, and snubbed all our efforts to be involved in a meaningful environmental review process”.
In its response to MiningWatch's concerns about the inadequacies of the fish compensation plan, the government acknowledged that it is accepting temporary improvements as compensation for permanent losses to fish habitat that will be caused by the mine. We believe this is in conflict with DFO's policy of no-net loss of fish habitat.
Environmental assessment documents can be found on the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency web site.
See Nak'azdli news releases and MiningWatch comments attached.