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VICTORIA — The B.C. government has not been subtle in pushing Ottawa to approve the New Prosperity mine.
In a case of gold fever, the province has shrugged off two damning federal environment reviews in the pursuit of what is believed to be one of the largest undeveloped copper-gold deposits in Canada.
The province’s environmental review gave Prosperity the go-ahead. When the first federal review concluded the mine would have a “high-magnitude, long-term and irreversible effect” on the environment, B.C. Mines Minister Bill Bennett dismissed the impact on a “tiny little pothole of a lake.” And when Ottawa rejected the original project, Premier Christy Clark set it at the top of her federal-provincial agenda when she advocated for New Prosperity at her first meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
All of this political pressure from British Columbia still may not be enough for the federal government to say “yes”. Like Ms. Clark’s B.C. Liberals, the federal Conservative government is keen on resource extraction, and this proposal would live up to its name for those in line to profit.
But Ottawa is in a box. When cabinet was presented with the first environmental review, the minister responsible, Jim Prentice, described the findings as “scathing” and rejected the project.
The proposal was scaled back and resubmitted, but the second review, released last week, was no less damning. It found the development of New Prosperity would result in significant adverse environmental effects on water quality, fish and wetland ecosystems. It also warned of risks to the South Chilcotin grizzly-bear population and moose.
Mr. Bennett believes Mr. Prentice could have, and should have, come to a different conclusion three years ago. “I think it was naive. It was naive and mostly political and I hope they don’t make the same decision going forward.”
It was naive, he said, because no one should be surprised that building a large open-pit metal mine would have an environmental impact.
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