B.C. government gives green light to mine despite Nisga'a disapproval

VICTORIA – The British Columbia government has given the environmental green light to a billion-dollar mine in the province’s northwest over the objections of the Nisga’a Nation, whose traditional territory is home to the mine site.

Provincial environment and mines ministers issued on Tuesday the Environmental Assessment Certificate to Avanti Mining Inc. (TSXV:AVT) to revive a mothballed molybdenum mine about 140 kilometres north of Prince Rupert.

Government officials agreed the Kitsault Mine could proceed after a review concluded the project isn’t expected to result in any significant adverse effects, based on the company following 34 conditions.

“The environmental assessment process involved a rigorous, thorough review that provided for significant opportunities for the Nisga’a Nation, First Nations, government agencies and the public to provide input,” the government said in a news release.

Provincial ministers Terry Lake and Rich Coleman received the referral report on March 1 and had 45 days to render a decision.

But the Nisga’a Nation has been concerned for some time the process has been rushed because of the upcoming May election. As a result, its government filed a notice of disagreement under their historic treaty.

Leaders have said they will use provisions in the province’s first modern-day treaty to slow the process down because they fear approvals have moved too hastily, and the mine’s effects on the Nisga’a people haven’t been properly weighed.

The government, however, says the province believes it can engage in dispute resolution with the First Nation in order to “meaningfully address” any outstanding issues.

The president of Vancouver-based Avanti, meanwhile, said last week it has undergone “extraordinary and unprecedented” work to ensure the Nisga’a Treaty requirements have been met.

The open-pit mine is planned to produce upwards of 50,000 tonnes of ore per day and is expected to create as many as 300 local jobs.

It was originally operational in the 1960s, before being shuttered in 1982.

The site will include a processing plant, a tailings storage facility, containment embankments and other waste diversion and collections systems.

Among the legally-binding conditions set out in the certificate is that the company develop a geographical response plan for spills that also describes barrier protection along areas of the transportation route, which is lined with bodies of water.

The company must also meet water quality guidelines, monitor aquatic effects and develop a plan for managing the wildlife corridor. Further, it must provide $100,000 in annual funding to help recover the Nass moose population.

Avanti expects the mine to have a 16-year life.