Following a Federal Court decision on September 25, 2007, the future of the proposed Red Chris Mine – a huge acid-generating mine proposed for northwestern British Columbia – has been put in doubt.

The precedent-setting decision upholds the fundamental right of Canadians to be consulted during the environmental assessment of large mines on the comprehensive study list. The Court found that the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act enshrined this right when it was amended in October 2003.

Representing MiningWatch Canada, Ecojustice lawyers (formerly Sierra Legal) filed the lawsuit in June 2006.

In his decision, Mr. Justice Luc Martineau condemns the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and Natural Resources Canada for unlawfully evading a comprehensive study environmental assessment of the Red Chris Mine, and unlawfully preventing the public from participating in the federal assessment. The decision orders that the Red Chris Mine be denied any federal permits on the basis of the unlawful environmental assessment.

In his reasons, Mr. Justice Martineau said that DFO’s evasion of a
Comprehensive Study had “all the characteristics of a capricious and
arbitrary decision which was taken for an improper purpose.”

The proposed Red Chris Copper-Gold Mine would turn the headwaters of three creeks in northern BC into a tailings dump, destroying fish habitat and risking contamination of the Stikine watershed in northwestern BC. The mine will have two huge open pits and will leave behind approximately 183 million tonnes of toxic tailings and 307 million tonnes of waste rock, which will likely need to be treated for acid mine drainage for over 200 years.

The mine is proposed to be built in the Klappan area of Tahltan traditional territory, in an area that has come to be known as the Sacred Headwaters.

For a number of years now, elders and other members of the Iskut First Nation in northern British Columbia have been trying to prevent development in a portion of their traditional territory known to them as the Sacred Headwaters. It is a beautiful area at the headwaters of the Stikine, Nass, and Skeena Rivers in north-western British Columbia.