Environmental Groups Take Feds to the Supreme Court

For Immediate Release

Environmental Groups
Contact: 

Lara Tessaro, Staff Lawyer, Ecojustice, phone (604) 685-5618 x245
Jamie Kneen, Communications Coordinator, MiningWatch Canada, phone (613) 569-3439
Richard Lindgren, Canadian Environmental Law Association, phone (613)385-1686  

Environmental Groups Take Feds to the Supreme Court

Canada’s highest court hears case defending public participation in environmental reviews

OTTAWA, Ontario - This
Friday, the Supreme Court of Canada will consider whether the federal government
acted unlawfully by excluding public input  from its evaluation of the controversial
proposed Red Chris Mine – a massive project that would turn a northern lake into
a dumping ground for toxic mining waste. The appeal could determine the fate of
a number of Canadian lakes currently threatened by mining
proposals, by ensuring more rigorous
environmental assessments with mandatory public participation.

“We’ve taken this
case to the highest court to protect the public’s right to participate in the
assessment of industrial projects; in this case, one that would turn a lake into
a toxic dump,” said Lara
Tessaro, a lawyer with Ecojustice who represents MiningWatch
Canada in the case.

The Red Chris mine
site is near Iskut in north-western British Columbia, 450 kilometres north of
Smithers. The proposed massive open-pit copper and gold mine would endanger
wildlife, risk watershed contamination, and threaten
the
Stikine River, one of Canada’s
greatest salmon rivers. The mine, proposed by Imperial Metals, would destroy
part of three streams, including rainbow trout spawning areas. It would
also convert
pristine Black Lake into a “tailings
impoundment area”.

Under the
Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and its regulations, metal mines
processing more than 3,000 tonnes of ore per day must undergo comprehensive
assessments with public participation. Yet the government gave the Red Chris Mine only a screening level assessment,
despite the fact it would produce ten times as much ore. The government also
chose to assess only a small fraction of the project, leaving
out the actual mine and mill.

“It’s outrageous
that the
federal government would attempt to evaluate a mine project while ignoring the
mine itself,” said Jamie Kneen of
MiningWatch. “Canadians have shown they
want to see environmental decisions taken as seriously as economic concerns.
We’re determined to ensure the federal government does just that.”

Also of concern is
the proposed mine’s waste dump, which is forecasted to stand 50 metres taller
than the Peace Tower, and cover 271 hectares, an area the size of
455 football fields. The
massive pile would threaten water contamination through acid rock
drainage.

“We hope to safeguard Canadians’ ability to protect the
environment through a comprehensive assessment process that involves public
participation and applies the precautionary principle,” said Canadian
Environmental Law Association lawyer Richard Lindgren, who represents six
environmental groups participating in the appeal as
interveners.

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