Panel error 'so outrageous as to be nearly unfathomable' – Taseko says
British Columbia's Taseko Mines (TSX:TKO) has revealed more information into its allegations that a federal panel reviewing its proposed $1.5 billion New Prosperity mine relied on the wrong information.
In letter to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) dated November 15, publicized by Taseko on Tuesday, the company calls the panel's alleged error "so outrageous as to be nearly unfathomable" and says that it "provides no reasonable basis" upon which the Minister for the Environment could reject the project.
Last week the CEAA asked the company to back up its claims that the panel reviewing the mine proposal had been looking at the wrong design for a tailings facility – which is supposed to prevent mine refuse from contaminating nearby water bodies.
In its study released earlier this month, the federal panel said that, based on the tailngs design among other things, the project would pose "several significant adverse environmental effects." The report was submitted to the Minister of the Environment to help make a final decision.
Taseko began improving its plans after the Federal government initially rejected Prosperity in 2010. In a letter to the Minister for the Environment dated November 8, Taseko wrote that it was spending more than $300 million in developing a mine that would preserve Fish Lake – which environmental opponents claim would be in endangered by mine tailings.
"As you know, the Project design was fundamentally modified to address aboriginal concerns noted in the first review panel 2010. We are spending over $300 million extra to develop the mine in a manner that preserves Fish Lake. This is precisely what the federal government encouraged us to do when rendering its initial decision in 2010." – Taseko's letter to Leona Aglukkaq, Minister for the Environment
Taseko then called on the Minister to approve the project:
"It is apparent that you have no reasonable choice but to conclude that the Project is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects … As such, the Project should be approved at this time and allowed to move into further regulatory processes”
In a statement issued Monday, the mining company noted that the CEAA had refused to publicize these letters on its internet registry. Taseko CEO Russell Hallbauer said the Agency's reluctance to post the letters "creates an inaccurate portrayal" of the company and gives the "impression … that our critique of the panel’s findings are somehow flawed."
"We have therefore posted the specific documents related to this matter on Taseko’s website to ensure our shareholders, community stakeholders and the general public are fully aware of the facts," Hallbauer added.
In the letter to the CEAA, Taseko says that it would be "highly unfair and prejudicial" if the Minister did not consider the alleged errors.
The Minister has 120 days after receiving the report to make a decision on the mine.
New Prosperity holds measured and indicated resources of 5.3 billion pounds of copper and 13.3 million ounces of gold. At metal prices of $1,000 per ounce of gold and $3.15 per pound copper, the project has a pre-tax net present value of $3 billion, according to Taseko's website.