Kemess Mine South Opposition

VICTORIA – The ELC is pleased to be involved with the efforts to protect a 6-km long pristine, fish-bearing lake in northern BC. Duncan Lake, known as Amazay Lake to local First Nations, is at risk of being destroyed and turned into a tailings pond for a proposed open-pit copper-gold mine. The project, proposed by Northgate Minerals Corporation, planned to expand the existing Kemess South Mine and develop an open pit copper-gold mine, Kemess North, which would destroy Amazay Lake. To assist First Nations lawyers for the Tse Keh Nay in opposing the project, ELC students over the past two years have conducted research, prepared reports and provided evidence to the Environmental Assessment Panel at public hearings. In a rare decision, the Joint Review Panel Report concluded in its September 17, 2007, Environmental Assessment Report that the proposed Kemess North Copper-Gold Mine Project would not be in the public interest. The Panel stated that the economic and social benefits provided by the proposed project were outweighed by the risks of significant adverse environmental, social and cultural effects, some of which might not emerge for many years. The Panel quoted the evidence of Eileen Blackmore, an ELC summer volunteer with a background in mining geophysics. On behalf of the First Nation, Eileen made a presentation to the Panel regarding alternative sites for the tailings pond and argued that inconsistencies between reports and presentations made it difficult for the public to follow the progression of the alternatives analysis over time. In its decision, the Panel noted a number of concerns with using the lake as a tailings pond. In addition to the lake’s fisheries and existing ecosystems being entirely displaced, turning the lake into a tailings pond would irreversibly alter the lake and pose long-term risks to water quality as well as impact “the significant implications to the spiritual values ascribed to it by Aboriginal peoples.” Should the project be approved, the Panel made over 30 recommendations to help manage and minimize adverse effects. Hopefully, though, the Ministers will agree with the Panel’s report and turn down the expansion proposal.


My arguments came down to 4 main contentions that were mixed questions of law and fact based on the Environmental Impact Assessment documents that were submitted on behalf of Northgate; each focusing on the selection of Amazay Lake as Northgate’s only option for the tailings impoundment area. …The entire experience of starting the project, researching it and seeing it to the end was very rewarding. I learned a lot about the environmental assessment forum, the process of the public hearings, and of course, how to prepare, write, and present a report re: a matter of concern. Eileen Blackmore, ELC volunteer Summer 2006

I really enjoyed being involved with a public interest law firm; I found it really added a sense of purpose to the work I was doing and provided a very different way of looking at the role of a lawyer. Joshua Selby, ELC student Spring 2007

Thank you very much to you and the ELC for all of your support and assistance in this long battle to save Amazay which is sacred to the Tse Keh Nay and is a crucial part of the headwater ecosystem for the whole Finlay River system. …This is very helpful research and analysis for the First Nations to use to protect the lake and their Territory. Murray Browne (Woodward & Company, Victoria)