Public hearings begin over proposed $1bn BC gold mine

Canadian gold miner Taseko (TSE:TKO) is hoping the second time's a charm as public hearings begin over its proposed open-pit mine near William's Lake, BC – a project which the federal government is reviewing again after rejecting it in 2010.

Panel review of the $1 billion New Prosperity mine began in a festive mood on Monday as the company held a 300-person barbecue in Williams Lake.

Taseko begins hearings with barbecue | Photos provided by Peak Communicators PR firm.

“It was an overwhelming show of support for the project," said Brian Battison, vice-president of Taseko.

The 30-day hearing will consider a revised proposal of the miner's $1 billion open-pit mine 125 km southwest of Williams Lake, B.C.

The site holds one of the largest undeveloped gold-copper deposits in the world, according to the firm.

This is the second time Taseko tries its luck with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency over New Prosperity. The provincial government had initially approved the project but the federal agency reversed the decision in 2010, namely because operations would require draining the lake. The agency's review also cited impacts on navigation, traditional land use and effects on grizzly bear populations.

As part of its fish habitat compensation plan, the company had proposed replacing Fish Lake with a new one and naming it Prosperity Lake.

Proponents of the mine argue that the project would bring much-needed jobs to a region where unemployment rates are well above the provincial average. According to the federal agency's 2010 review, Taseko estimates it would bring 375 direct jobs per year to the Cariboo-Chilcotin Regional District, with 600 indirect and induced jobs to the province.

Public gathers for hearing | Photos provided by Peak Communicators PR firm.

First nations communities have been strongly opposed to the proposal on environmental and traditional land-use grounds.

Taseko argues that under its new proposal, which involves the preservation of Fish Lake and "23% total reduction in hectares of disturbance to land and water," New Prosperity would be "fully in line" with federal recommendations.

Over a 20-year mine life, Taseko expects to recover 7.7 million ounces of gold and 3.6 billion pounds of copper.

The company enjoyed some gains on the Toronto exchange on Tuesday, rising nearly 5%.

Photos provided by Peak Communicators PR firm.