Taseko upbeat on New Prosperity after land ruling

Taseko Mines (TSX:TKO) has expressed optimism about its twice-rejected New Prosperity gold and copper project in the wake of a landmark Supreme Court ruling.

The June 26 land-claim decision in favour of a B.C. First Nation clears a major obstacle to the mine's development, according to the company.

"The question of whether and to what extent aboriginal rights and title exists has been a complicating factor in advancing the New Prosperity Project," the Vancouver-based miner said.

The court decision resolves that complication, according to Taseko, by confirming that the proposed project is located in a place where no aboriginal title exists.

"As such, New Prosperity is the only proposed mine in B.C. that people know for sure is not in an area of aboriginal title," the company said.

Although the B.C. government approved the project near Williams Lake, two federal panels and the federal government rejected it on the grounds that it would harm the environment, citing damage to fish and fish habitat.

The Tsillhqot'in Nation, the First Nation in question, has long opposed the New Prosperity mine and continues to resist efforts to advance it.

"I think Taseko has a very twisted view of things," chief Joe Alphonse, Tsillhqot'in tribal chairman, was quoted by the Vancouver Sun as saying. "I think it's very, very irresponsible."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper himself was critical of the project, calling the environmental assessment "extremely negative."

The mine's fate continues to be tied up in court, with Taseko claiming the evaluation was neither fair nor transparent.

But the miner remains confident that New Prosperity will move forward, expecting the legal proceedings to turn out favorably for it.

"I think that, in combination with the clarity on there is no aboriginal title, is positive for the future of the project," Brian Battison, Taseko's vice-president of corporate affairs, was quoted by the Vancouver daily as saying.