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Robert F. Kennedy Jr. urging Fisheries Minister Regan to reject DFO?s PDF Print E-mail
Earth News
Monday, 14 March 2005 14:59
Fisheries Minister Regan urged to kill B.C. gold mine plan

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. urging Fisheries Minister Regan to reject DFO?s
environmental assessment The following article appeared in the Hill Times, the national capital's
politics and government weekly.


THE HILL TIMES, MONDAY, MARCH 14 ? MARCH 20, 2005
Page 14
NEWS By PACO FRANCOLI Fisheries and Oceans Minister Geoff Regan is facing a
mountain of opposition over his department?s recent decision to green light
an environmental assessment for an access road leading to a controversial
mining project in Northwestern British Columbia.

Thousands of objections were lodged with the Department of Fisheries and
Oceans (DFO) last month, many of them coming from environmentalists worried
about the proposed road which would snake through 160 kilometers of one of
the world?s purest remaining large wildlife, salmon and wilderness areas.

The matter has also drawn international condemnation. Last month, Robert F.
Kennedy Jr., a senior attorney for the Washington- based Natural Resources
Defence Council, appealed directly to Mr. Regan (Halifax West, N.S.) urging
him to send his officials back to the drawing board.

Mr. Kennedy, son of the late American politician Robert F. Kennedy who was
assassinated in 1968, dismissed DFO?s environmental assessment as a
?political rather than a technical document? that ?ignores extensive
evidence? and would have ?numerous profoundly negative impacts.?

Added Mr. Kennedy in the Feb. 16 letter obtained by The Hill Times: ?I urge
the Canadian government to revisit this proposal and either reject it
outright, or subject it to the kind of scrutiny that is warranted and
allowed for under Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.?

DFO must now decide whether to grant the necessary federal permits allowing
the mining company, Redcorp Ventures, to build the road. The proposed
Tulsequah Chief mine in Northwestern, B.C., can?t go ahead without the road
which would travel through a watershed and countless fish-bearing lakes.

Redcorp Ventures has already received a certificate to proceed with the gold
mine from the B.C. provincial government and now needs federal permits to go
ahead with the road.

This is just the latest face-off between conservationists and the federal
government over the matter that has been percolating for over 10 years and
appears to be coming to a dramatic head.

On Jan. 5, DFO published its environmental assessment of the proposed road,
declaring that ?it is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental
effects.?

The report enraged environmentalists. During the subsequent 45-day public
commentary period, thousands voiced their displeasure with it. The
Department of Fisheries and Oceans confirmed that it had received more than
4,000 submissions by the Feb. 18 cutoff date.

Sue Farlinger, regional director of Oceans Habitat and Enhancement of DFO?s
pacific region, said most of the submissions are in the form of letters.
?There are mostly concerns around the project,?she added.

Ms. Farlinger said DFO will spend the next month reviewing the submissions
and then ascertain whether the environmental assessment addresses the
concerns raised. The department will then decide whether the environmental
assessment must be beefed up or simply issue the permits.

She could not say whether Mr. Regan will have a direct say.

?Let?s face it, there are thousands and thousands and thousands of
transactions that this department does every day. So does the minister see
every single one? Not necessarily. But the minister is accountable through
all the chains of command for every decision made and he is briefed where he
needs to be briefed on issues?. He may very well have to be briefed on this.
I can?t speak on whether he will or whether he won?t,?she said.

Environmental groups are girding for a major battle if DFO grants the
permits.

?It?s completely unacceptable and completely unsupported by the data,? said
David MacKinnon, a spokesperson for Transboundary Watershed Alliance, about
DFO?s environmental assessment in an interview.?And certainly my
organization and many others have made that abundantly clear in our
submission to DFO during the public comment period.?

Last month, Mr. MacKinnon?s group and members of the Taku River Tlingit
First Nations, an aboriginal group who lives on the territory of the
proposed mine, held a press conference in Ottawa to blast the government
over the mining plan.

Mr. McKinnon wants DFO to have the road proposal analysed by an independent
panel. His group is concerned DFO?s environmental assessment process was
influenced by highlevel lobbying.

Through access to information, his group learned Bruce Rawson, a former DFO
deputy minister, met several high-ranking DFO officials last May on behalf
of Redfern Resources, a subsidiary of Redcorp Ventures. The meeting was
about the proposed mine and was attended by Larry Murray, DFO?s current
deputy minister and Richard Wex, director general of the department?s
Habitat Management Directorate.

?These are top-level bureaucrats. Not you?re standard technical people
involved in the assessment itself,? said Mr. McKinnon. ?And after that
meeting? things changed dramatically and suddenly the DFO shifted its
position on a number of key aspects of the assessments and allowed it to go
forward in a very accelerated way.?

The matter quickly became fodder for MPs in the House of Commons. NDP MP
Nathan Cullen (Skeena-Bulkley Valley, B.C.), whose riding captures the
proposed Tulsequah Chief mine, brought it up during a Member?s Statement on
Feb. 22.

?Previously the DFO was on record with concerns about how this project would
affect the salmon bearing streams and caribou herds of the Taku region.
After a closed door meeting with lobbyists for the mining company and the
province of British Columbia, the DFO inexplicably changed its position and
is now pushing the project forward,?he said.

Mr. MacKinnon said his group is against the Tulsequah Chief mine principally
because the access road would interfere with the Northern Mountain Woodlands
Caribou, a ?species of special concern? under the Species at Risk Act. The
road would also travel over 200 water crossing along, of which at least 69
are fish-bearing,? said Mr. MacKinnon.

?We are certainly very concerned about sedimentation in waterways, about
toxic spills, certainly the threat of ancillary developments,? he said. Mr.
MacKinnon added that about 12 per cent of the Taku River Tlingit First
Nations land has been staked out by other mining interests. He said that the
road could become a heavy-traffic area.

?The province?s approval certificate leaves the door wide open for [the
road] to be transferred to somebody else after the mine closes. It may seem
like a small aspect of it but it?s fundamental in terms of the cumulative
impact and the long term damage in the watershed,?he said.

This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it The Hill Times

*********************************************************
David MacKinnon - Executive Director
Transboundary Watershed Alliance

302 Hawkins Street 867-668-5098
Whitehorse, Yukon 867-668-6637(fax)
Y1A 1X6

Take action to save the Wild Taku!
Sign the TWA?s on-line petition against approval of the Tulsequah Chief mine project! Follow the links on our website to ACT NOW!

www.riverswithoutborders.org

Last Updated on Monday, 14 March 2005 14:59
 

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