Clarity sought on mining policy

Pacific Booker Minerals made a second statement in response to the province’s refusal to issue an Environmental Assessment Certificate.

Pacific Booker Mine’s position is that the proposed mine site does not fall within the Skeena River headwaters

Pacific Booker Minerals Inc. (PBM) has made a second statement in response to the province’s refusal to issue an Environmental Assessment Certificate (EAC) for the Morrison Mine Project.

In his Nov. 8, 2012 statement Erik Tornquist, PBM Chief Operating Officer, reiterated PBM’s position that it had met provincial assessment requirements for the project, even though on Oct. 1, 2012 the project was denied the required EAC they needed to proceed.

Tornquist further stakes out PBM’s position that the proposed mine site does not fall within the Skeena River headwaters, and that PBM had satisfied both the concerns of the Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) and an independent third-party review concerning the dangers of the mine project to water and salmon habitat.

The reverberations of the decision to deny the project an environmental certificate despite having cleared the hurdles of the EAO have been felt throughout the mining industry province-wide.

AdvantageHope, a not for profit economic development agency in Hope, B.C. sent a letter to Premier Christy Clark and ministers Terry Lake and Rich Coleman to express concern over the uncertainty created by the circumstances of the decision to terminate the Morrison Mine project.  The apparent contradiction between the EAO’s conclusions and the province’s negative decision will have a ‘potential chilling effect on investment,’ the letter claims.

In his letter to the premier’s officer Tyler Mattheis, Executive Director of AdvantageHOPE,  expressed concern that because positive assessment provided by the EAO was not enough to satisfy the province, the door has been left open ‘to speculation that this decision was not science or research based.’

“We don’t know why the ministers turned down the project,” Mattheis said.  “We’re unsure of the rules, and if we’re unsure of the rules, then investors are unlikely to invest.”

“We have heard of concerns in the mining community,” Mattheis said.  He did not want to be specific, but he explained that he had heard from land tenure holders in the area that interest in mining investment had cooled.

Gavin Dirom, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Association for Mineral Exploration B.C., was less subtle in his assessment of the provinces’ decision.  “The recent decision to not issue an Environmental Assessment Certificate to Pacific Booker Minerals for their Morrison copper-gold mine project does not appear to represent a science-based decision making process that was transparent, logical or clear,” he said.

One person not perplexed by the province’s decision is Mark Duiven, Deputy Commissioner of the Skeena Fisheries Commission (SFC) based in Kispiox B.C.  The SFC is a fisheries research and conservation initiative supported by First Nations in the Skeena Watershed, including the Tsimshian, Gitxsan, Gitanyow, Wet’suwe’ten, and Lake Babine Nations.

“Frankly, they underestimated us,” said Duiven.  “If you believe that First Nations resource management doesn’t do real science it’s time to wake up.”

The SFC was established in 1985 and has been providing technical and scientific management of Skeena watershed fish resources.  The SFC includes the proposed site of the Morrison Mine within the Skeena watershed as part of the brooding habitat for the interior sockeye salmon fishery.

According to Duiven, the organization had a difficult time finding a place at the table during the initial stages of the environmental assessment, but they were eventually recognized as legitimate stakeholders. A review of documents submitted by the SFC to the EAO shows a set of conclusions regarding the possible ill effects of Morrison mine project that were very different from the conclusions of the EAO.

The conclusions of the SFC were so contrary to the findings of the EAO that in the final months of the environmental assessment, the Gitxsan Chiefs’ Office, and the Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs wrote to the EAO to unequivocally express their position that the environmental assessment process had not adequately addressed their concerns as First Nations stakeholders.

Glen Williams, Chief Negotiator for the Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs wrote directly to minsters Terry Lake and Rich Coleman on Aug. 2, two months prior to their final decision to block the project.  “We maintain that the EAO process has not discharged the Crown’s consultation obligation to us regarding the Morrison Mine Project,” wrote Williams.

But the report released by the EAO never acknowledged the level of opposition that the local First Nations had to the project.  According to Duiven, the disconnect between the findings of the EAO and the province’s decision to reject the proposal mirrors the disconnect between the province and its First Nations.

“The single biggest problem we have in B.C. is the lack of a consistent and coherent policy with First Nations as it applies to mineral exploration and development,” said Duiven.  “I don’t have a sense that there’s a coherent provincial policy regarding First Nations.”

Ministers Terry Lake and Rich Coleman were responsible for the final decision.  Their offices have been contacted for comment but no response was available at press time.


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