Taseko: Court approves judicial review of New Prosperity mines decision

The Federal Court has rejected an application by Taseko Mines Ltd. (TSX:TKO) to sue the federal government for rejecting its gold-copper mine in the Cariboo-Chilcotin, but will allow judicial reviews to proceed.

Taseko’s Prosperity mine – revised as New Prosperity – has been rejected twice by Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA).

Taseko has argued that the CEAA’s decision was fundamentally unfair and based on flawed assumptions. The agency based its decisions on a tailings pond design that Taseko says it was not planning to use. Rather, it was based on a design provided by Nstural Resources Canada, Taseko argues.

After the first mine proposal was rejected in 2010 over concerns about using Fish Lake for tailings storage, Taseko revised its plan to avoid use of the lake. But the revised proposal – the New Prosperity mine – was also rejected over environmental concerns.

Taseko filed for judicial reviews of both decisions and then later asked the Federal Court to convert them into a lawsuit against the Government of Canada.

The Federal Court has rejected that application, but has granted the judicial reviews – something welcomed by the Tsilhqot’in First Nation, which is vehemently opposed to the mine.

“TML trying to convert both judicial reviews into a trial was them gasping for air as their project drowns in Federal rejections and faulty plans,” Chief Joe Alphonse, tribal chairman of the Tsilhqot’in National Government, said in a press release.

“It says a lot that this company tried to delay the hearing of its own court proceedings by years.  The allegations against the federal government are a last ditch effort. The Tsilhqot’in Nation agrees with the courts that the two judicial reviews should be dealt with separately and in a timely manner.”

In addition to basing its decision on inaccurate tailings pond designs, Taseko also alleges that federal officials acted inappropriately by having secret meetings and correspondence with the Tsilhqot’in First Nation without disclosing it to Taseko.

“What we are owed in this process is a duty of administrative fairness,” said Taseko spokesman Brian Battison.

“So we are owed any documents that the government of Canada relies on. We are to be informed of any meetings that take place on the subject. There were meetings that took place that we were not made aware of.”

Since the CEAA’s decision rejecting Taseko’s mine proposals, the Supreme Court of Canada last year made a landmark ruling that affirmed the Tsilhqot’in hold aboriginal title to land in the Nemiah Valley, and aboriginal rights to trap, hunt and catch wild horses in a larger area.

That Tsilhqot’in rights area includes the New Prosperity mine. Taseko estimates it has spent $130 million trying to develop the mine.

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