Ecojustice Case – Nature Case Status: Victory

Defending Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) from the New Prosperity Mine

Sean NixonLawyer
Stefania Mazzucco

Teztan Biny, also known as Fish Lake, and the area around it remain safe from toxic tailings from a proposed open-pit copper-gold mine.

In December 2019, the Federal Court of Appeal dismissed Taseko Mines Ltd.’s challenge of a federal government decision not to approve the company’s proposed New Prosperity Mine (Taseko Mines Limited v. Canada, 2019 FCA 319). Taseko’s legal case also challenged the federal environmental review panel findings upon which the government’s decision was based.

On behalf of MiningWatch Canada, Ecojustice intervened in the case to uphold the panel’s precautionary approach.

The panel found that Taseko failed to provide enough information during the review about how it would address major environmental concerns, and that the mine project would likely have several significant environmental effects.

If built, the open-pit gold and copper mine would have been located on the traditional territory of the Tŝilhqot’in Nation, in close proximity to Teztan Biny.

A federal review panel also previously found that the mine would have harmful effects on the lake, which is sacred to the Tŝilhqot’in, including impacts on fish and fish habitat, current use of lands and resources for traditional purpose, and on Tŝilhqot’in cultural heritage.

Why did Ecojustice get involved?

Ecojustice got involved in this case to help keep Teztan Biny and the surrounding area safe from a project that has repeatedly been found to pose a serious threat to the environment.

Alongside our clients at Miningwatch Canada, Ecojustice is also committed to supporting the Tŝilhqot’in, who led the fight to protect their territory from the proposed New Prosperity Mine.

Finally, Ecojustice got involved in this case to uphold the federal review panel’s precautionary approach to assessing the project.

We believe the precautionary principle — which states that governments, companies and individuals must prevent harm to human health and nature whenever possible — should inform all environmental decision-making in Canada.

What does this victory mean?

Along with protecting the Fish Lake watershed and the river system, and once again affirming the Tŝilhqot’in peoples’ rights over their traditional lands, this decision supports the panel’s careful approach to allowing public participation and dealing with uncertainty about potential environmental impacts.

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