(File photo)

(File photo)

Gov’t gives thumbs down to proposed mine north of Smithers

Potential risk to water quality, salmon cited

Citing the potential for damage to a population of sockeye that uses the Skeena River, the provincial government won’t be issuing an environmental assessment certificate for the planned Pacific Booker Minerals open-pit copper, gold and molybdenum mine 65 kilometres northeast of Smithers.

In a decision released Feb. 7, mines minister Bruce Ralston and environment minister George Heyman said Pacific Booker Minerals Incorporated failed to submit “information to demonstrate that risks to water quality and fish can be suitably mitigated.”

The project, had it gone ahead, would have had a daily production of 30,000 tonnes.

The company first applied for an environmental assessment certificate in 2010 which was refused in 2012 upon the recommendation of the provincial Environmental Assessment Office’s executive director.

“There is potential to affect a unique wild sockeye salmon population that contributes to the Skeena River sockeye;

“The potential for long-term liability for the province and risk to the environment were not acceptable in this case; and,

“There is insufficient data about Morrison Lake and the potential diminished long-term water quality in Morrison Lake was not an acceptable risk,” the Feb. 7 release indicated of the 2012 reasons for refusal.

A 2013 successful challenge through a judicial review by the company determined it did not have the opportunity to review and comment on the reasons for the 2012 refusal. That started a reconsideration of the application.

But that was suspended in 2014 when the environment ministry wanted to seek the views of the company and affected First Nations of the report into the failure of the tailings pond at the Mount Polley mine.

And in 2015 the environment and mines ministers ordered that more information be gathered to assess the risks to water, fish and the environment.

That information was to be contained in a specific document. However, it did not materialise since the company was unsuccessful in three attempts between 2016 and 2021 to submit what was ordered, said the province.

In late 2021 the company and affected First Nations agreed that the 2021 order requiring the further information could be rescinded.

That did occur and the information from the company from 2015 was again submitted for consideration.

“As Pacific Booker Minerals has not submitted additional information to demonstrate that risks to water quality and fish can be suitably mitigated by the Morrison Copper/Gold Project, the ministers have decided not to issue an environmental assessment certificate,” the Feb. 7 statement concluded.

The site in question is on the territory of the Lake Babine Nation and is upstream of the territories of the Gitanyow and Gitxsan First Nations. It would have required a connection to the provincial hydro grid via a transmission line running through a portion of the territory of the Yekooche First Nation.