B.C. Government wants massive Shuswap mining project to forgo federal review
A massive zinc mine proposed in the upper Adams River drainage is moving into the environment assessment phase and the province of B.C. has requested that the project skip the federal environmental review process (see release below). The Upper Adams River is a sensitive, salmon-bearing watershed and efforts continue to re-vitalize the salmon run which was nearly wiped out nearly one hundred years ago due to a splash dam built by the Adams River Lumber Company. “The proposed processing of the ore at the mine site has the potential to impact both the threatened Bull trout in Oliver Creek and the salmon downstream in the Upper Adams River. We believe that it is imperative that this proposed mine project receive the most stringent review possible,” explained Jim Cooperman, Shuswap Environmental Action Society president. “We urge the federal government to ensure that this proposed mine receive a federal environmental assessment,” Cooperman added.
Although the proposed mine would be underground, the processing of the ore would require the storage of tailings above ground storage and in an alpine lake, which has the potential to pollute watercourses downstream. As well, the mine project is located at a very high elevation where the snowpack is very deep and there are nearby glaciers. Consequently, the potential also exists for problems related to avalanches and snowmelt.
The provincial review process has a history of approving projects that are not environmentally responsible, such as the Prosperity Mine (Fish Lake), which was approved provincially but was turned down twice in the federal review. It is clear that the provincial process is not adequate for a project of this size and scope that has the potential to impact a relatively pristine watershed that is home to salmon and other key species.
SEAS also urges the public to get involved and to use the opportunity to provide comments to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency by the June 19th deadline.
Send your letter urging the government to require a federal assessment to RuddockCreek@ceaa-acee.gc.ca
Learn more about the project by downloading and reading the Project Description
Mine review sparks debate
by Barb Brouwer – Salmon Arm Observer
posted Jun 5, 2014
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.
Here is the government notice:
Ruddock Creek Mine Project – Public Comments Invited
May 30, 2014— As part of the strengthened and modernized Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (CEAA 2012) put in place to support the government’s Responsible Resource Development Initiative, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (the Agency) must decide whether a federal environmental assessment is required for the proposed Ruddock Creek Mine Project located in British Columbia (B.C.). To assist it in making its decision, the Agency is seeking comments from the public on the project and its potential effects on the environment.
The Government of B.C. has requested the substitution of the B.C. environmental assessment process for the CEAA 2012 process if it is determined that an environmental assessment is required. The Agency is also seeking comments on this request.
In considering the Government of B.C.’s request, the federal Minister of the Environment must be satisfied, under CEAA 2012, that:
- the process to be substituted will include a consideration of the factors set out in subsection 19(1) of CEAA 2012;
- the public will be given an opportunity to participate in the environmental assessment;
- the public will have access to records in relation to the environmental assessment to enable their meaningful participation;
- at the end of the environmental assessment, a report will be submitted to the Agency;
- the report will be made available to the public; and
- any other conditions the Minister establishes are or will be met.
The Minister would also establish the following additional conditions for this project:
- the involvement of expert federal departments in the B.C. process;
- B.C. meeting the CEAA 2012 365-day time frame for completing the environmental assessment;
- B.C. conducting procedural aspects of Aboriginal consultation; and
- B.C. making available to Aboriginal groups funding provided by the Agency to support consultation during the substituted environmental assessment.
B.C.’s request is in accordance with a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the Agency and the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office to enable efficient and timely use of the CEAA 2012 substitution provisions. The MOU addresses the processes leading to substitution, the conduct of the substituted environmental assessment and associated Aboriginal consultation, and the coordination of decision-making, monitoring and follow-up after the environmental assessment. The MOU and a Backgrounder on substitution under CEAA 2012 are available on the Agency’s website.
Written comments on the need for a federal environmental assessment and on the substitution request must be submitted by June 19, 2014 to:
Ruddock Creek Mine Project
Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency
410-701 West Georgia Street
Vancouver, British Columbia V7Y 1C6
To view a summary of the project description or for more information on the project, the substitution request and the environmental assessment process, visit the Agency’s website (Registry reference number 80072). All comments received will be considered public.
The Agency will post its decision on whether a federal environmental assessment is required on its website. A notice of the Minister’s decision on the request for substitution will also be posted on the Agency’s website if it is determined that a federal environmental assessment is required.
The Proposed Project
Ruddock Creek Mining Corporation is proposing the construction, operation, and decommissioning of a new underground zinc-lead mine located between the headwaters of Ruddock Creek and Oliver Creek in the Scrip Range of the Monashee Mountains, approximately 155 kilometres northeast of Kamloops and 28 kilometres east of Avola, British Columbia. The project, as proposed, would have an ore production capacity of 3,000 tonnes per day over an anticipated mine life of eight years.