The Fraser River is seen west of Williams Lake from Doc English Bluff Ecological Reserve. (Rebecca Dyok photo)

The Fraser River is seen west of Williams Lake from Doc English Bluff Ecological Reserve. (Rebecca Dyok photo)

Final hearing set for appeal of Gibraltar mine permit by Tsilhqot’in Nation

Environmental Appeal Board virtual hearings May 20, May 21

The Tsilhqot’in Nation’s challenge of a permit application by Gibraltar Mine to increase its effluent discharge into the Fraser River north of Williams Lake is anticipated to conclude by the end of the week.

In a statement issued Thursday morning, the Tsilhqot’in Nation noted it is appealing the amended permit on the grounds their laws and principles were not properly considered in the consultation and accommodation process, and that the amended permit fails to protect the environment.

Gibraltar Mine last received approval to increase its rate of discharged mining effluent into the Fraser River by 50 per cent from April 10, 2019, to November 10, 2021, by the director of the B.C. Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy.

Read More: INDUSTRIAL UPDATE 2021: Gibraltar Mine protecting and managing water

Taseko vice president of corporate affairs, Brian Battison previously confirmed to Black Press Media the mine has been discharging water that is monitored weekly since 2009, and said its operation has never compromised the Fraser River.

“The Gibraltar mine accumulates roughly six million cubic meters of water every year predominantly from rainfall, snowmelt, and groundwater,” Battison said, adding water has been accumulating since the 1980s and cannot be stored indefinitely.

“To reduce the amount of total water stored on-site water treatment options are being examined, the purpose of which is to reduce the amount of sulphate and nitrate.”

If the appeal is successful, Gibraltar would still be able to discharge at their previous permitted rate, which the Tsilhqot’in Nation said remains of grave concern given the lack of sophisticated treatment before discharge into the Fraser River that supports the sensitive white sturgeon.

Nits’ilʔin (Chief) Troy Baptiste of the ʔEsdilagh First Nation said waterways and the life they support must be protected from cumulative impacts and permits such as the Gibraltar Mine discharge permit.

Read More: ‘Dilution not the solution’ says ?Esdilagh, Nadleh Whut’en First Nations

“Effluent is being pumped into the Fraser River when it does not meet B.C. water quality guidelines where the discharge pipe enters the river. The fact that (B.C.) has a policy that allows for this to happen is appalling and goes against our own laws.”

Last May, ?Edilagh First Nation adopted its written form of Elhdaqox Dechen Ts’edilhtan (Sturgeon River Law), noting they did so to exercise their right to govern the use and management of waters in their territory to ensure it is safe and clean for future and current generations.

Gibraltar Mine’s parent company, Taseko Mines Ltd., and the Tsilhqot’in National Government have had a tumultuous relationship for more than a decade stemming from the proposed New Prosperity Gold-Copper Mine project at Teztan Biny (also known as Fish Lake) west of Williams Lake. The two parties have currently agreed to a standstill with the intent to discuss a long-term solution to the conflict.

Gibraltar Mine, located between Williams Lake and Quesnel, is within both Tsilhqot’in and Secwépemc traditional territories.

A livestream of the hearings Thursday, May 20 and Friday, May 21, is available on the Environmental Appeal Board website.

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