Taseko heads to court to try resurrecting New Prosperity
Taseko Mines (TSX:TKO) is not giving up on its plan to build a large copper-gold mine in north-central British Columbia, despite two earlier rejections by the Government of Canada.
The Vancouver-based company last week appeared in Federal Court asking for a judicial review of the federal government's decision to reject, on environmental concerns, the New Prosperity Mine project located 125 kilometres from Williams Lake.
The $1.5-billion project was approved by the B.C. government but Ottawa turned it down twice, in 2010 and 2014, on the advice of the Environmental Assessment Agency. The first rejection was based on Taseko's plan to drain Fish Lake and use it as a tailings impoundment. The company later revised the mine plan to avoid using the lake but it was again rejected on environmental concerns. Taseko said the findings were flawed and relied upon the wrong tailings storage facility design.
The company filed for judicial review of both decisions, then tried to sue the Canadian government. The Federal Court rejected the right to sue but granted the judicial reviews in 2015.
The Tsilhqot'in nation claims the company is trespassing on their traditional territory, an argument that was heard by the Supreme Court of Canada, which ruled in a landmark case that the Tsilhqot’in hold aboriginal title to land in the Nemiah Valley, and have rights to trap, hunt and catch wild horses. The New Prosperity proposed copper and gold mine is within the rights area.
On January 30 Taseko was back in court to launch a constitutional challenge to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and to ask for a judicial review of the federal decision to reject the mine. According to a press release from the Tsilhqot'in, Taseko is arguing that the act goes too far in protecting the interests of Aboriginal people. The mining company also maintains that the review panel erred in the evidence it considered and that the firm was not given an opportunity to challenge that evidence, according to a recent report about the case.
Taseko is also pursuing the project through the B.C. government, in an effort to avoid yet another full-blown environmental review.
In a letter leaked to the Globe and Mail newspaper by an Independent parliamentarian, Taseko president and CEO Russell Hallbauer wrote to B.C. Premier Christy Clark "demanding the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office proceed with a request to amend the environmental certificate for the New Prosperity project despite Ottawa’s repeated rejections."
The amendment process was subsequently started several week later, according to the Globe. In the letter, Hallbauer goes further in pressing the B.C. government, writing that if it does not amend the environmental certificate, it should buy the mineral tenures at the proposed mine. If that doesn't happen, the company would go to court seeking damages “based upon a claim of de facto expropriation, among other things,” reported the Globe, quoting from the letter.
A year ago Taseko did just that, only the claim was filed against the federal government, in a case that has yet to be heard.
Taseko has thus far spent over $130 million trying to develop the New Prosperity Mine.