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HomeNews100 Mile HouseTsilhqot’in Nation Challenges Permit to Increase Discharge of Effluent into Fraser River

Tsilhqot’in Nation Challenges Permit to Increase Discharge of Effluent into Fraser River

Discharging dirty mine effluent is not responsible mining.

Those are the words of Esildagh First Nation Chief Roy Stump who would like to find a better solution when it comes to Taseko’s three-year permit for Gibraltar Mines to discharge 50% more volume of site water per day into the Fraser River.

The Tsilhqot’in Nation said that they had filed a notice of application last week to the BC Environmental Appeal Board challenging the decision.

“The effluent pipe dumps tailings effluent directly from the mine’s pond into the Fraser River only four kilometers downstream from the community of Esdilagh which straddles the Fraser River,” stated a media release Tuesday (April 23).

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“The effluent does not meet BC Water Quality Guidelines at the end of the pipe. Instead, the Fraser River is used as a source of dilution to meet the water quality guidelines downstream.”

Originally approved in 2006, the permit was already subject to an appeal at that time by the Xat’sull First Nation.

“The discharge to the Fraser River, only a few kilometers downstream from where most of our members live, is located at one of our main traditional fishing sites and has been a source of deep concern to us since originally approved,” Stump said.

“The Provincial discharge permit to release effluent at full capacity does not respect our community’s own laws about water. We are not opposed to this mine or economic development, but we do believe that discharging dirty mine effluent is not responsible mining. We would like to find a better solution and have asked this for many years – this is not difficult to do.”

Noting that all British Columbians depend on the Fraser River for food, water, and more, Tl’esqox First Nation (Toosey) Chief Francis Laceese said salmon swim those waters on their journey home to their territory.

Yet the Province allows it to be used as a sewer, to dilute mine waste just because a company is too cheap to build an effluent treatment plant,” he said.

“This is unacceptable in this day and age. A responsible company would not be forcing the rest of us to subsidize its waste disposal while jeopardizing our food and our water. Meanwhile, our salmon stocks, our steelhead, and our sturgeon are threatened on all fronts. We think it’s no coincidence that since this discharge was originally approved, we have seen our salmon runs steadily decline and white sturgeon are being considered for a listing as an endangered species.”

The Ministry of Environment told MyCaribooNow the amendment to Gibraltar Mines permit was granted by an independent statutory decision-maker following extensive consultation and considering the best available science.

“The permit allows the discharge of site water which is not the same as mine tailings,” a Ministry spokesperson said.

“Site water includes all the precipitation and runoff from the entire site, which—in this case—is roughly the size of the City of Vancouver. Runoff is collected in the tailings pond, along with mine effluent, where it is treated so that minerals and solids settle to the bottom. The site water that is left is then released at a specific volume that is protective of the environment. The alternative to releasing the site water is to stock-pile it on site.”

The 3-year temporary permit amendment includes stricter limits for copper and sulphate when discharging at the increased rate.

The Ministry adds it is confident the permit allows activities that are safe for people and the environment.

“Under the permit, our dilution modeling predicts that the discharge won’t cause exceedances of water quality guidelines,” the spokesperson said.

“In fact, during the spring freshet, water tested upstream from the mine is higher in metal content than water tested in the initial dilution zone where mine water mixes with river water. And, testing of the river downstream of the outfall has shown no significant environmental effects, including for fish.”

The Ministry said it will monitor the discharge as well as other factors such as mine conditions, the climate, and technology to ensure the best plan for the site is in place.

“Ministry staff continue to work with the company, First Nations and other agencies to monitor the discharge and assess alternative long-term water management plan,” the spokesperson said.

“The Tsilhqot’in National Government have been consulted on the original permit and all subsequent amendments, and they are at the table as part of the Gibraltar Mines Technical Advisory Committee.”

MyCaribooNow has reached out to Taseko Mines for comment.

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