Letter to Govt. re. ‘Prosperity Mine’ proposal

SARAH CHESTERMAN
Vancouver, BC

June 16, 2010

The Right Honourable Stephen Harper
House of Commons, Parliament Buildings
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A9

RE: SPECIAL URGENT REQUEST TO PLEASE CONSIDER THIS LETTER IN YOUR JULY 2nd FEDERAL ASSESSMENT OF TASEKO MINES LTD’s ‘PROSPERITY MINE’

Dear Prime Minister,

I write this letter with unwavering dedication to my obligations as a concerned Canadian citizen – born and raised in Vancouver – to contribute to the wellbeing of my province and country, and as such respectfully request your consideration of the critical information contained herein to use in your Assessment of Taseko Mines Ltd.’s “Prosperity Mine” project currently under federal review.  The imminent decision to be made by your review board on July 2nd is a date awaited with extreme anxiety by those who would be most closely affected, who are dreading its approval.

This open-pit Copper/Gold Mine Taseko Mines Ltd. proposes to build in the Nemaiah Valley in B.C.’s Cariboo/Chilcotin region would have extremely significant environmental effects, contrary to Taseko’s final submission. Included here are examples of existing, comparable mines illustrating the extent of these effects and demonstrating with shocking clarity their catastrophic consequences – not only for the British Columbians who currently live in and draw their livelihood from this part of BC’s Chilcotin region, but also for its complex ecosystems and the many wildlife species that depend upon them for survival, and for BC as a whole in terms of its fishing and tourism industries and its water supplies.

THE NEMAIAH VALLEY
Taseko’s proposed location is a special land, where spawning salmon make their incredible 300-km journey up the Fraser and Chilcotin Rivers to Chilko Lake. Fish Lake and Little Fish Lake (Nabas) sit at the headwaters of the Taseko River and ultimately the Fraser River, 600 km north of Vancouver, BC. In late July to early August visitors can witness the phenomena of the spawning Chinook and Sockeye salmon in Beece Creek and the Taseko River.

It is a beautiful unspoilt wilderness, home to wide variety of wildlife. Bighorn Sheep, grizzly and black bears, deer, mountain lion and wild horses are just some of the area’s inhabitants. The many bird species include Bald and Golden Eagles, Osprey and Blue Heron, to name a few.

The territory has been home to the Tsilhqot’in First Nations tribe for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. The area’s unspoilt beauty is testament to their responsible stewardship of the land. In recent years, they have been developing an impressive ecosystem-based forest management model, an Access Management Plan, and eco-tourism initiatives that include cultural experiences and wildlife viewing. They have declared much of their territory a protected area, designating it the Aboriginal Wilderness Preserve (1989) and the Elegesi Qayus Wild Horse Preserve (2002).

Also situated in this valley are a number of high-end guest ranches, spa retreats and working ranches whose owners, in harmony with their First Nations co-habitants, have carefully & responsibly managed the land on which they live and conduct their activities in sustainable, non-disruptive ways that ensure thriving ecosystems – for present and for future generations.

This area of British Columbia attracts tourists from all over the world seeking to experience its unique expanses of undeveloped wilderness, its exciting wildlife viewing and its stellar selection of world-class accommodations/guest ranches. The first time I visited Nemaiah Valley, aged 23, was a week’s summer stay at a horse ranch. Almost 10 years ago, it is still my most memorable holiday ever – prior trips to Disneyland, England, Montreal, the Oregon coast, the south of France and the United Kingdom notwithstanding. To this day, no other place on earth has so captured my heart, or held such allure, or inspired such awe. Other ranch guests often expressed similar sentiments, perhaps explaining their third visit from Germany or elsewhere. The uniqueness of being in these wide-open spaces is hard to convey, but it is exactly the essence that makes a place unforgettable: the enchantment of being outdoors in the Valley’s hushed presence just before sunset, when the heady scent of wildflowers wafts your way as you gaze up at Mount Tatlow with noone else around; the elated flush of catching sight of a wild horse shyly watching you from a safe distance through the trees on a horseback ride in the woods; or putting down your oars in the middle of a perfect, pristine lake and giving yourself up to the breathtaking beauty of Mother Nature in her element…

It is indeed difficult to believe that BC’s own provincial government has given approval for Taseko Mines Ltd. to proceed with this project – which by necessity would also require them to level entire forests, drain 2 rich trout-fishing lakes which would create permanent loss of fish habitat as well as terrestrial habitat for grizzly bears, put a permanent environmental liability into the tributary of the Taseko and Fraser Rivers, eliminate cultural sites dating to at least 5,500 years ago, create an open pit 800 m. deep and 1600 m. in diameter, and create 858 million tonnes of tailings and 358 million tons of waste rock – and, of course, destroy homes and lives and a wilderness lodge industry that requires untouched wilderness to function and thrive.

Such approval – besides having been made without proper assessment or consultation – seems diametrically opposed to this same provincial government’s Tourism Action Plan (2007):

[from http://www.tca.gov.bc.ca/tourism/docs/tourism_action_plan.pdf%5D :

PROVINCE OF BRITISH COLUMBIA’S TOURISM ACTION PLAN (February 2007)

“Tourism remains one of our strongest strategic building blocks, and a huge strategic advantage for every region of the province.  B.C. has the world’s most spectacular places, diverse cultures, amenities and landscapes and amazing resorts. We want to work with the tourism industry to ensure we provide funding in the most eff ective way possible to double tourism revenues, and to make sure communities across B.C. can achieve their full tourism potential.”
– Premier Gordon Campbell, September 2004

Also from the above website, in a list itemizing BC govt’s planned tourism actions:

“…promoting and marketing the province of British Columbia as a premiere destination, showcasing and leveraging the 2010 Games and B.C.’s attractive physical environment; Simply put, the tourism sector will increase the number of tourists and the length of their stay; government will ensure that appropriate regulatory and economic climates are in place, as well as provide planning, coordination, and infrastructure investments, to help the tourism industry meet that goal.”

TOURISM IN THE NEMAIAH VALLEY

BC government’s Tourism Action Plan has been applied most vigilantly by businesses in the exact region slated for destruction by Taseko Mines Ltd.  The following listings, for example, can be found under the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast section of http://www.bcadventure.com ‘s BC Guest Ranch Directory – i.e. by far the most listings of any region listed in this section…

Big Bar Guest Ranch: No deadlines, fresh mountain air, good horses & trails that lead to spectacular views. Nestled in the rolling hills of the Cariboo, where time has no meaning, we offer riding, hiking, gold panning, canoeing, hay rides, fishing, x-country skiing, snowmobiling,…

Big Creek Lodge: Live your dream of untouched nature and pure wilderness at our 4 Star country inn in the Chilcotin – one of the province’s most remote areas. Take part in hiking, photo safaris, fishing, horseback riding, gold-panning, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing.

Black Creek Cattle Company: Unique vacations at our ranch in the scenic Horsefly River Valley near Williams Lake, BC. Horseback riding, kayaking & flyfishing alongside the Horsefly River, home to one of the world’s largest salmon spawning runs.

Chaunigan Lake Lodge: The wild rainbow trout fishing and the total experience draw our guests back each year. Go trail riding, hike to spectacular viewpoints, or just relax in our legendary hospitality and comfort. It’s more than an incredible fishing trip – it’s a memorable vacation.

Chezacut Wilderness & Ranch Adventures: We offer you an authentic experience on a working cattle ranch. Become a more confident rider joining your guide on ranch tours or cattle drives. Our home cooked, organic food and grass-finished meats are always on the menu…

Chilcotin Holidays Ltd:  Stay at our guest ranch and explore some backcountry while you see BC’s true wilderness. Enjoy trail riding and sleigh rides, guided multi-day hiking trip or wilderness trekking, wildlife viewing and big game safaris, x-country skiing, snowmobiling , fishing…

Escott Bay Resort: The adventure starts with fishing, hiking, horseback trail riding, pack trips and hunting – and with the snow comes x-country skiing & snowmobiling. Located between Tweedsmuir and Itcha Ilgachuz Parks, we offer fully serviced cabins and camping facilities…


Euchiniko Lakes Ranch: Enjoy flyfishing the famous Blackwater River, packhorse trips or riding wilderness trails, big-game hunting, canoeing or hike the historic Alexander Mackenzie Trail. There’s something for everyone at Euchiniko Lakes Ranch including a relaxing camp fire.

Free Rein Guest Ranch: Explore our amazing landscapes, enjoy our Western hospitality, experience our adventures and embrace our friendly and relaxed Cariboo lifestyle. We really do give you free rein to decide how you spend your days with us.

Siwash Lake Ranch: 4.5 Stars – explore pristine wilderness by horseback, on your own or with a guide. Cast to a rising trout, hike to cascading waterfalls, mountain bike an array of trails or paddle shimmering Siwash Lake. Ultra-luxe accommodation, fine dining & all season adventures…

Spring Lake Ranch: Enjoy horseback riding, hiking, canoeing, & winter sports with old fashioned hospitality & a relaxed western atmosphere. Our year-round natural paradise, in BC’s Cariboo Country, is the perfect place for a tranquil adventure and to create special memories.

The Hills Health & Guest Ranch: Enjoy a rejuvenating escape from everyday at our world-class health spa and western guest ranch. In winter there’s X-country skiing & snowshoeing … and in summer canoeing, mountain biking, and hiking. Our country dining room also features a gourmet menu.

WILDLIFE HABITAT – EXCERPTS FROM GOVT. OF CANADA WEBSITE:

Wildlife Habitat
“Environment Canada is committed to preserving wilderness areas that support healthy and diverse wildlife populations. It oversees a network of protected areas covering 11.8 million hectares of wildlife habitat – an area twice the size of Nova Scotia.”

Habitat Conservation
“Habitat loss and degradation are perhaps the most important pressures facing wildlife today. The Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) of Environment Canada considers habitat protection vital to conserving wildlife and is making efforts to preserve the remaining wilderness areas that support healthy and diverse wildlife populations. Efforts are also focused on creating and protecting wildlife areas where habitat losses have been greatest. The protection and wise use of Canada’s wildlife habitat are a joint responsibility, shared by governments, non-government organizations, the public, Aboriginal groups, and the private sector.”

Excerpt from Environment Canada’s Species at Risk Act (2002, c. 29)
 – Canada’s natural heritage is an integral part of our national identity and history,
Canadian wildlife species and ecosystems are also part of the world’s heritage and the Government of Canada has ratified the United Nations Convention on the Conservation of Biological Diversity,
 – the roles of the aboriginal peoples of Canada and of wildlife management boards established under land claims agreements in the conservation of wildlife in this country are essential,
 – all Canadians have a role to play in the conservation of wildlife in this country, including the prevention of wildlife species from becoming extirpated or extinct,
 – stewardship activities contributing to the conservation of wildlife species and their habitat should be supported to prevent species from becoming at risk,
 – the traditional knowledge of the aboriginal peoples of Canada should be considered in the assessment of which species may be at risk and in developing and implementing recovery measures,
 – knowledge of wildlife species and ecosystems is critical to their conservation,
the habitat of species at risk is key to their conservation,
 – Wildlife, in all its forms, has value in and of itself and is valued by Canadians for aesthetic, cultural, spiritual, recreational, educational, historical, economic, medical, ecological and scientific reasons”

[from http://www.fonv.ca]:
“In British Columbia the Chilcotin holds the last major numbers of wild horses. Communication from a recent range manager for the Ministry of Forests in Alexis Creek, King Campbell, indicates that there are about 400, including 75 in the Brittany triangle. The M.O.F. say they conduct a fly over every February to determine these numbers. Personal experience (David Williams) and conversations with local guide outfitters and Xeni Gwet’in First Nation members indicate that there are probably closer to 100 in the B.T. and possibly twice that number. All indications are that their numbers are very slowly increasing or are stable at present. Milder winters over the past few years may have contributed to a slight recent increase in some areas. Nevertheless, this appears to be an intact ecosystem in a state of balance without undue competition between species which share habitat requirements.”

“DETRIMENTAL ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS THAT CANNOT BE MITIGATED”

From a letter dated October 2008 from Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) addressed to Garry Alexander (EAO) re. comments on the Prosperity Project:
“NRCan Rationale:
The flooded pit could represent a long-term source of ARD/ML contamination for the lower Fish Creek watershed. Of particular concern is the potential for geochemical stratification within the pit, with eutrophication and seasonal turnovers that could cause a sudden deterioration of outflow quality.”

COST OF GOLD – THE HIDDEN PAYROLL: 
BELOW A MOUNTAIN OF WEALTH, A RIVER OF WASTE[http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/27/international/asia/27gold.html?_r=2&pagewanted=1]
The following are excerpts from a lengthy NY Times article about Grasberg Mine by JANE PERLEZ and RAYMOND BONNER, published: December 27, 2005:

“By Freeport’s own estimates, Grasberg Mine will generate an estimated six billion tons of waste before it is through – more than twice as much earth as was excavated for the Panama Canal. Much of that waste has already been dumped in the mountains surrounding the mine or down a system of rivers that descends steeply onto the island’s low-lying wetlands, close to Lorentz National Park, a pristine rain forest that has been granted special status by the United Nations.

“… A perpetual worry is where to put all the mine’s waste – accumulating at a rate of some 700,000 tons a day… The danger is that the waste rock atop the mountain will trickle out acids into the honeycomb of caverns and caves beneath the mine in a wet climate that gets up to 12 feet of rain a year, say environmental experts who have worked at the mine.
“This year Freeport told the Indonesian government that the waste rock in the highlands, 900 feet deep in places, now covers about three square miles.  Down below, nearly 90 square miles of wetlands, once one of the richest freshwater habitats in the world, are virtually buried in mine waste, called tailings, with levels of copper and sediment so high that almost all fish have disappeared, according to environment ministry documents.

“The waste, the consistency and color of wet cement, belts down the rivers, and inundates and smothers all in its path, said Russell Dodt, an Australian civil engineer who managed the waste on the wetlands for 10 years until 2004 for Freeport. About a third of the waste has moved into the coastal estuary, an essential breeding ground for fish, and much of that ‘was ripped out to sea by the falling tide that acted like a big vacuum cleaner,’ he said.

“A geologist who worked at the mine, who declined to be identified because of fear of jeopardizing future employment, said acids were already flowing into the groundwater. Bright green-colored springs could be seen spouting several miles away, he said, a tell-tale sign that the acids had leached out copper. ‘That meant the acid water traveled a long way,’ he said.

“Freeport says that the springs are ‘located several miles from our operations in the Lorentz World Heritage site and are not associated with our operations.’ The geologist agreed that the springs probably were in the Lorentz park, and said this showed that acids and copper from the mine were affecting the park, considered a world treasure for its ecological diversity.

“Freeport says that the tailings are not toxic and that the river it uses for its waste meets Indonesian and American drinking water standards for dissolved metals. The coastal estuary, it says, is a ‘functioning ecosystem’. The Parametrix report shows copper levels in surface waters high enough to kill sensitive aquatic life in a short time, said Ann Maest, a geochemist who consults on mining issues. The report showed that nearly half of the sediment samples in parts of the coastal estuary were toxic to the sensitive aquatic organisms at the bottom of the food chain, she said.

“The amount of sediment presents another problem. Too many suspended solids in water can smother aquatic life. Indonesian law says they should not exceed 400 milligrams per liter. Freeport’s waste contained 37,500 milligrams as the river entered the lowlands, according to an environment ministry’s report in 2004, 7,500 milligrams as the river entered the Arafura Sea.

“By today, almost one billion tons of waste have been sent down the river from the copper and gold mine.”

[End excerpt]

Grasberg Mine:

GRASBERG MINE VS. PROSPERITY MINE:
[http://www.tasekomines.com/tko/Prosperity.asp]

GRASBERG MINE, PAPUA, NEW GUINEA
At Grasberg, Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold mines the world’s 3rd-largest copper deposit. The mine also has proven reserves of 46 million ounces of gold, according to the company’s 2004 annual report. Freeport’s gold mine has been called the biggest in the world.
Grasberg’s Reserve Base:
2.8 Billion tonnes; grade,1.09 % Cu
Annual Production (2006)
Copper
610,800,000kg
Gold
58,474,392g


PROSPERITY MINE, B.C.
One of the largest undeveloped copper-gold deposits in Canada, the Prosperity deposit is a gold-copper porphyry with a 1.0 billion tonne measured and indicated resource containing 5.3 billion pounds of copper and 13.3 million ounces of gold.
Key project metrics include:
• 3.6 billion pounds of recoverable copper
• 7.7 million ounces of recoverable gold
• 33 year mine life at a milling rate of 70,000 tonnes/day
• Life of mine waste to ore strip ratio of 1.5
Reserves and Resources
The mineral reserves estimated from the study:
Prosperity Mineral Reserves at C$5.50 NSR/t Pit-Rim Cut-off
Category Tonnes
(millions) Gold
(g/t) Copper
(%) Recoverable
Gold Ounces (millions) Copper Pounds (billions)
Proven 481 0.46 0.26 5.0 2.4
Probable 350 0.35 0.18 2.7 1.2
Total 831 0.41 0.23 7.7 3.6

TASEKO MINES LTD.: A DIVISION OF HUNTER DICKINSON

The following article [from http://www.asianews.it] outine some effects other projects by Hunter Dickinson, the same company that owns Taseko Mines Ltd. and is proposing Prosperity Mine:

TIBET SLAMS INDISCRIMINATE CANADA-BASED MINING IN CHINA

“Dharamsala (AsiaNews) – Tibetans and their supporters staged a die-in protest (pictured) in Dharamshala (India) yesterday to protest mining in Tibet by Continental Minerals, a subsidiary of Canada-based Hunter Dickinson.


“The action is a part of a global campaign demanding that the company immediately cease all mining operations at Shethongmon [Xietongmen]. The development of Tibet’s mineral riches is undermining its fragile environment and polluting water sources on which 47 per cent of humanity depends.


“’Under Chinese occupation, Tibetans are denied the internationally recognised right to determine the use of their own land and resources,’ said Tenzin Choedon, programme director of Students for a Free Tibet-India (SFT-India). ‘Depleting Tibet’s mineral wealth in favour of China represents a danger to the country’s fragile ecology because of the destruction of vast unpopulated areas and the pollution of water sources.


“Ten major river systems… have their source in Tibet. Most mining sites are located near these major rivers and their tributaries. Chemicals from mining are released into these rivers, where they poison the water.
‘Almost 47 per cent of the world’s population depend on the water sourced from the Tibet plateau and three of our [India’s] major rivers come from Tibet,’ said, Kirti Kapoor, a student from Delhi University and a member of SFT-India. The Chinese government and foreign mining companies could destroy not only Tibet’s fragile environment but also destroy ‘the lifeline of almost half of the world population.’


[Excerpted from article by N. Carvelo]

Numerous more reports about the deleterous effects on surrounding air, lands & waters of mining activities exist, including the following links:

http://ledzep.biz/aga/?tag=usa

http://www.infomine.com/publications/docs/McLeod2003a.pdf

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/24/international/24GOLD.html

http://rainforests.mongabay.com/amazon/amazon_destruction.html

http://environmentalarmageddon.wordpress.com/2010/11/27/decades-of-gold-mining-brings-enviro-armageddon-to-johannesburg-sa/

I truly hope that the above provides you and the Federal Review Board with some further valuable information that will be useful in making the best decision about Prosperity Mine for British Columbia and for Canada. Please also think about those who have built their lives in the same area as Taseko’s proposed location, for the wildlife whose habitats depend upon the healthy ecosystem which Prosperity Mine would destroy, the salmon run from the area leading into the Fraser River – and other mines around the world that are proof of the absolutely devastating environmental effects such a mine would create – effects which are so extreme it is obvious no amount of mitigation could possibly reverse the destruction.

Thank you very much for your kind attention and consideration, and for taking the time to read the above as a further source of information on which to base the Federal government’s crucial decision.

Yours sincerely,

SARAH CHESTERMAN
VANCOUVER, BC.

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