In a case that could have far-reaching consequences, lawyers from Sierra Legal will tell a Federal Court judge tomorrow that development of a large open-pit mine in northern British Columbia should not go ahead until the project has undergone a comprehensive environmental assessment. The Red Chris Mine would turn creek headwaters into a tailings waste dump, destroying fish habitat and risking contamination of the Stikine watershed in northwestern BC.
On behalf of MiningWatch Canada, Sierra Legal will argue that Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and Natural Resources Canada violated the law when they refused to consult the public in the federal environmental assessment of the Red Chris Mine. The Federal Court will be asked to prohibit DFO, Natural Resources Canada, and the federal Cabinet from issuing permits for the proposed mine.
Under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and Cabinet regulations, a metal mine development producing 3,000 tonnes of ore per day must undergo a comprehensive assessment, which includes public participation. The proposed Red Chris Mine could produce 30,000 tonnes of ore daily. Yet DFO and Natural Resources Canada undertook a simple screening assessment which did not include public participation.
“DFO and Natural Resources Canada should be promoting public consultation on large mine projects. Instead, knowing their environmental assessment of the Red Chris Mine was controversial, they refused to consult the public,” said Sierra Legal lawyer Lara Tessaro. “We hope that the Federal Court will require public consultation before large mines can proceed.”
“The Red Chris Mine will scar indigenous traditional lands forever. It will destroy sustainable fishing, trapping and hunting territory with two huge open pit mines. Those pits could leave behind 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,” said Joan Kuyek, National Co-ordinator of MiningWatch. “We are fighting for the fundamental right of Canadians to be consulted before the construction of large mines, with such irreversible environmental consequences, can take place.”
The three-day hearing will begin Tuesday, June 19 at 9:30 a.m. at the Federal Court, Pacific Centre – 3rd floor, 701 West Georgia Street, Vancouver.