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September 9, 2010

Prosperity Mine- LeTTeR #2

September 8, 2010

Dear Prime Minister,

To follow up on my letters of June 16th and July 5th regarding the Federal Assessment of Taseko Mines Ltd's proposed "Prosperity Mine" gold-copper project near Williams Lake, BC, I must ask you to reject the company's request based on recommendations submitted by the CEAA in its Summary Review of this project.

The Review concludes that the proposed mine would have ‘significant adverse environmental effects’ and ‘significant adverse cumulative impact’ on fish and bear population and habitat in the South Chilcotin region by creating rock waste and tailing impoundment areas near Williams Lake, BC. The Panel also cites 'high magnitude, long term, irreversible effect on the Tsilqhot'in' and that the 'value of the claim would be reduced substantially due to changes in the landscape'; that Taseko's proposed mitigations are 'not sufficient to compensate for loss of habitat or landscape fragmentation', in addition to negative impacts on local uses of the landscape. Since the actual effects/impacts mentioned in the Review are difficult to fully grasp by such generalized description alone, the following real-life example (below & page 2) of another, existing large gold-copper mine (Grasberg Mine in Papua – @ bottom of pg.) illustrates the shocking magnitude of the decimation Taseko has planned for this B.C. wilderness...

The following excerpts from a NY Times article about Grasberg Mine by JANE PERLEZ and RAYMOND BONNER, published in December 2005, exemplify the devastation of such effects.

[from NY Times]
"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 rainforest 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… 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… [adding] that acids and copper from the mine were affecting the [Lorentz] 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 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 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."

Grasberg Mine
While Grasberg mine is located on an isolated mountaintop in a remote region on the island of New Guinea, Taseko Mines Ltd's proposed location is smack in the middle of a lush, thriving wilderness in British Columbia's South Chilcotin – habitat to numerous indigenous, thriving species such as Grizzly bears, wolves, cougars, salmon and countless others, co-existing with those who live in and draw their livelihood directly from its clean environment and richly diverse ecosystems. Its freshwater lakes and rivers also make up one of the main watersheds leading into the Fraser River.

The far-reaching and irreversible damage of a gold-copper mine – gold-copper open-pit mines being one of the most environmentally devastating activities on the planet – would destroy whole ecysystems and many wildlife habitats, creating an ecological disaster. From the viewpoint of those living there – as well as those of us who spend vacations there, along with those (humans and animals) who depend upon the healthy fish habitats for survival – a worse location for such a monstrosity could not have been chosen.

I would like to add that, respecting the locale of the proposed mine is of great importance to the First Nations (Tsilhqot'in) people who have lived here for hundreds if not thousands of years – a key consideration, since it is their careful stewardship that has ensured continuation of its abundant thriving wildlife.  The region is also a world-class vacation spot, highly desired particularly by Europeans attracted to its remoteness and uniquely vast expanses of unspoilt scenery. The wilderness experiences offered by some 15-20 quality guest ranches providing one-of-a-kind authentic holidays 'away from it all' depend for their success upon the untouched nature and continued wildlife habitation of their surrounds.

 Allowing a gold-copper mine to be built in this location (Teztan Biny) would therefore eliminate the livelihoods of several local residents – as well as violate the following tenets pertaining to Canadian wildlife [from Environment Canada's website]:
Excerpts 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…
• 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,
• the habitat of species at risk is key to their conservation."

If I may conclude by appealing to your compassion and your fellow-feeling for those Canadians brave enough to become entrepreneurs in the tourism industry, as ambassadors and hosts, with this excerpt from an email I received from one of the guest ranch operators with whom I have been corresponding:
"Hello Sarah, ...You can certainly add us to the list of lodges, especially since we will be at the closest point about 2.5 km from the claim and operating area of the mine, it will eliminate our prime horse grazing range and tourism trails. Wiped out to say the least. We also have had a lease application over our base camp here at Beece Creek disallowed back in 2004 due to F.N. and fish concerns?! Now yesterday I read in the Tribune (June 15 issue page 4 Titled "Council of Canadian to protest ....") that BC has granted a long term lease to Taseko Mines for a project which is not only 100% against what FN stand for but wiping out an entire ecosystem with lakes creeks and rivers attached. Unbelievable! Sincerely, S.R."
Consider the anxiety with which all residents of this area await your final decision re. Taseko Mines' proposal, along with the overwhelming evidence of existing gold-copper mining operations around the world elucidating permanent damage to wildlife habitats, thriving living organisms and salmon populations of the nearby lakes as well as adjoining rivers and waterways…

Perhaps most importantly, think of the First Nations (Tsilhqot'in) people who are the oldest inhabitants here, whose stewardship has kept this land pristine. environmentally sound, self-sustaining and teeming with diversity for centuries.  Theirs is ultimately the legacy worth leaving here in B.C., a province I am proud to defend from the harm, greed and selfishness which Taseko's 'Prosperity Mine' epitomizes…

Please send us, your British Columbian friends, some of your capital goodwill by rejecting Taseko Mines Ltd.'s hostile proposal to decimate a B.C. wilderness and sacred Tsilhqot'in Nation territory.  Gold-copper mining is an ecological disaster; please don't let B.C. become one too! Thank you so much.


Sarah Chesterman
Vancouver, B.C.