Taseko Mines halts exploration on New Prosperity in face of disputes
by Derrick Penner, The Province, August 14, 2017
Taseko Mines has suspended plans for exploration work around its proposed New Prosperity copper-gold mine in the Cariboo Chilcotin in the face of legal disputes, a company official said.
The company took the step as the federal government, which has twice rejected the $1.3-billion mine proposal, filed an application in B.C. Supreme Court for an injunction seeking to formally block Taseko’s plans for additional geotechnical work at the project site.
“We’ve suspended the work related to the notice-of-work (plan),” said Brian Battison, vice-president of corporate affairs for Taseko, “and we advised (the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency) of that before their filing for an injunction.”
On July 14, Taseko was issued permits by a B.C. mines inspector authorizing a three-year work plan, which the company contends was to gather information related to its proposal for the New Prosperity project, about 125 kilometres southwest of Williams Lake.
The proposed work involved drilling 122 exploration holes, digging 357 test pits, the construction of 48 kilometres of new access trails, modifying 28 kilometres of existing trails, and establishing a 50-person work camp.
Battison said the company will look to sort out what it considers a jurisdictional dispute between the provincial and federal governments over whether the province had the authority to grant the permits, which he characterized as “information gathering.”
Counsel for the federal Attorney-General filed its petition with the B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Aug. 10, on behalf of the Ministry of Environment, arguing that the proposed work would constitute “carrying out” a project that the federal cabinet had rejected.
Federal lawyer Donaree Nygard, in the application, argued that the information gathering would be “a necessary step in substantially starting the New prosperity project.”
And later, that “there is no public purpose served in allowing Taseko to cause listed environmental effects in pursuit of a mine that has twice been denied the necessary federal (approval).”
It was the second action seeking to block the work. Representatives of the Tsilhqot’in government filed an application on July 31 arguing the work infringed on their aboriginal title.
On Monday, the judge hearing the Tsilhqot’in application adjourned the matter after Taseko agreed to suspend the work.
Notwithstanding Taseko’s move, a Tsilhqot’in community chief welcomed the federal government’s move to file for an injunction.
“It sends a powerful message to our people that the government of Canada also considers Taseko’s drilling program illegal and is ready to go to court to protect our interests and environment,” said Chief Roger William of the Xeni Gwet’in First Nation, one of six Tsilhqot’in member nations.
Taseko has challenged the federal Cabinet’s last rejection of its project in federal court, as well as the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency’s negative assessment that was used to make that decision, and is waiting for a judgment in the case.