The site of the Ruddock Creek zinc mine near the Adams River.

Mine review sparks debate

A request by the province to substitute a federal environmental review of a proposed mine has raised concerns

A request by the province to substitute a federal environmental review of a proposed mine with a single provincial review has raised concerns and differing opinions.

Shuswap Environmental Action Society president Jim Cooperman was given a guided tour in 2008 of the Ruddock Creek zinc mine, high above the headwaters of the Adams River.

“At that point they were going to do all the processing a long way away in an area that didn’t post any environmental risks,” he says. “Since then, they’ve changed the plans.”

While he describes the plan by mine owner Imperial Metals of Vancouver as basically a good one, Cooperman says his main concern is the tailings to be stored there for the first six months of operation going into Light Lake.

Cooperman’s other concern is the fact the mine is located in a heavy snowfall area with a high likelihood  of avalanches, events that he believes could destroy infrastructure and harm the surrounding environment, including Oliver Creek and farther downstream, the Adams River.

Those are all the challenges connected with operating at high elevation and ones that need extreme caution and environmental oversight – from both the province and the federal government, he says.

“The track  record for provincial assessments is that they operate as a rubber stamp,” he says. “As we have seen only too clearly by the approval of the province of Prosperity Mine, which would have destroyed Fish Lake, it was subsequently turned down twice in the federal review process.”

Ramsey Hart of Mining Watch Canada says the non-profit organization was alerted to the province’s request by the Neskonlith Indian Band, which opposes the move because of their traditional use of the area.

He will be asking Ottawa to deny the B.C. government’s request.

“We think federal oversight on key issues is really important due to aboriginal use of the land, potential impacts on fisheries and endangered species – all of which are the responsibility of the federal government,” he says, noting he is also concerned the B.C. timeline is too short at 180 days to do a review and 45 days for a decision to be made, whereas a federal assessment can take a year to two if it is done by a review panel. “We also note that the federal government has held projects to a higher standard.”

But both the government and Imperial Metals say oversight will not be reduced.

“The substituted environmental assessment still covers what must be considered under both a provincial assessment and a federal assessment,” reads a June 3 email from the Ministry of Environment, which maintains substitution allows the assessment process to be conducted more effectively and efficiently. “The province’s businesses, First Nations and communities alike will benefit from the elimination of the duplication involved in having two assessments for a single project, while maintaining strong environmental assessments and aboriginal consultation.”

Steve Robertson, Imperial Metals vice-president corporate affairs, agrees. In responding to Cooperman’s concerns, Robertson says the plan is to minimize “to the extent possible,” the environmental footprint of the mine.

He says the tailings, or leftover rocks, will be mixed with cement and be placed back in the mine. But, he points out, until the mine has been in production for several months, there will be no place to put the tailings.

A dam will be built high on the headwaters of Oliver Creek, right beside the processing plant to contain the initial tailings, Robertson says. Avalanche control will be part of the company’s management plan, both in terms of building infrastructure and control measures, he adds.

Robertson says First Nations concerns are also being addressed.

Comments regarding the mine may be made to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency by the June 19 deadline.

 

Just Posted

Multiple-vehicle collision reported at Highway 97A/97B intersection

A multi-vehicle collision is reported to have occurred at the Highway 97A/97B… Continue reading

New fire spotted near Mabel

Spot-sized blaze on the Enderby side of the lake

Chance of showers may not be enough to rid Okanagan of smoke

Wind and chance of thunderstorms competing factors in this week’s forecast

City to provide free transit for refugee family

Salmon Arm council approves up to $1,200 in bus passes to end of 2018

UPDATE: Darke Lake residents under evacuation alert

Fire crews battling wildfire in rural community west of Summerland

Filmmaker captures the smoke that enveloped the Shuswap

Check out this video of the haze that blanketed Salmon Arm

Smoke looming in Okanagan could affect wine

Smoke taint could sour this years vintages if ash falls on grapes

Vehicle fire on the Coquihalla

Heavy congestion in north bound lanes

Cool Creek fire near Princeton grows to 6,900 hectares

The Cool Creek fire is threatening recreational homes in high elevation north west of Cathedral

Columbia Shuswap directors allocates cash to secure rail trail funding

Money will help create trail network on former Armstrong to Sicamous corridor

Prime minister greeted by B.C. premier as cabinet retreat begins

PM Justin Trudeau and Premier John Horgan meet in advance of federal cabinet meetings in Nanaimo

Property owner details plan for quarry near Old Town Road

Murray Hillson plans to remove rock in order to create site for high-end home.

Are your kids anxious about going back to school?

BC Children’s Hospital offers tips to help your children be mindful and reduce stress

New trial ordered for James Oler in B.C. child bride case

Meanwhile, appeal court dismisses Emily Blackmore’s appeal of guilty verdict

Most Read