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Morrison Copper/Gold Mine Not Granted an Environmental Assessment Certificate

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The mine would have been 2,028 hectares with a capacity to produce 30,000 tonnes per day

VICTORIA – An environmental assessment certificate will not be issued to Pacific Booker Minerals Incorporated (PBM) for the Morrison Copper/Gold Project, following a decision by George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, and Bruce Ralston, Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation.

The company proposed an open-pit copper, gold and molybdenum mine and ancillary facilities with a project footprint of 2,028 hectares and production of 30,000 tonnes per day, located approximately 65 kilometres northeast of Smithers. The proposed mine site was located on the territory of the Lake Babine Nation and upstream of the territories of the Gitanyow and Gitxsan First Nations. A portion of the proposed transmission line was on the territory of Yekooche First Nation.

PBM first applied for an environmental assessment certificate in 2010, which was refused by ministers in 2012 on the recommendation of the executive director of the Environmental Assessment Office (EAO).

Ministers determined that:

  • There is potential to affect a unique wild sockeye salmon population that contributes to the Skeena River sockeye;
  • The potential for long-term liability for the province and risk to the environment were not acceptable in this case; and,
  • There is insufficient data about Morrison Lake and the potential diminished long-term water quality in Morrison Lake was not an acceptable risk.

PBM initiated a judicial review of the decision and in December 2013 the B.C. Supreme Court set aside the 2012 decision and directed that the application for an environmental assessment certificate be reconsidered because the proponent did not have the opportunity to review and comment on the EAO executive director’s recommendations that were provided to ministers for decision.

Ministers began a reconsideration of the application and considered the views of PBM on the EAO executive director’s recommendation. In August 2014, the Minister of Environment suspended the reconsideration process to allow the EAO to seek the views of PBM and Indigenous Nations on the report of the Independent Expert Engineering Investigation and Review Panel into the failure of the tailings pond at the Mount Polley Mine to further inform the ministers’ decision.

On July 7, 2015, following the reconsideration process, the ministers ordered the project to undergo further assessment to collect additional baseline information and analysis to ensure a thorough and accurate analysis of the project’s risks to water quality, salmon and the broader environment. The Further Assessment Order issued by ministers laid out the information PBM would need to provide to continue development of the project. The first step was to submit a satisfactory draft Supplemental Application Information Requirements (SAIR) document. Between 2016 and 2021, PBM submitted three draft SAIRs that did not meet the requirements set out in the Further Assessment Order.

To address the lack of progress, the EAO proposed options for progressing or completing the further assessment process and engaged with PBM, Lake Babine, Gitanyow, Gitxsan and Yekooche First Nations. The consensus option with all parties was a preference for or a non-objection to the Further Assessment Order being rescinded. The Further Assessment Order was rescinded on Dec. 2, 2021, and the decision materials from 2015 were resubmitted to ministers for a decision on whether to issue an environmental assessment certificate for the Morrison Copper/Gold Project.

As PBM has not submitted additional information to demonstrate that risks to water quality and fish can be suitably mitigated by the Morrison Copper/Gold Project, the ministers have decided not to issue an environmental assessment certificate.

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