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Could there be a third try for the Taseko mine?

Council of Canadians Board member Garry John celebrates the defeat of the New Prosperity mine with Tsilhqot'in chief Roger William.
Photo: Council of Canadians Board member Garry John celebrates the defeat of the New Prosperity mine with Tsilhqot’in chief Roger William.

Last week, federal environment minister Leona Agluqqak rejected the proposed New Prosperity mine at Fish Lake.

BC Business reports, “Agglukaq concluded the mine is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects that cannot be mitigated by potential economic benefits. The government based its decision on a report from an independent environmental assessment that found that the mine would do irreparable damage to fish habitats. The decision however leaves open the opportunity for Taseko to apply for a third time.”

According to Mining Weekly, “Taseko (says) that it fundamentally disagreed with the decision and believed that government’s decision was based on a panel report that contains ‘serious flaws’. …Following the (release of the review panel’s report last November), Taseko applied to the Federal Court for a judicial review of the assessment, arguing the panel used the wrong information in drawing its conclusions.”

“Taseko said that it would proceed with the federal judicial review that started in December.” But Taseko CEO Russ Hallbauer has also stated, “We believe investors will likely assign a low probability of success to the appeal as the company had already begun direct dialogue with the Federal Ministry of Environment.” And in an interview with the Business News Network last week, the Taseko CEO said he was unsure if his company would ask the federal government to reconsider or appeal the decision in court.

Taseko does have an ally with Christy Clark’s provincial government in Victoria. CBC notes, “British Columbia’s Minister of Energy and Mines, Bill Bennett was a vocal supporter of the mine and has promised, along with Taseko Vice President of Corporate Affairs Brian Battison, that the government and Taseko will not give up. …Bennett said the provincial government will help Taseko in any way it can to appeal Ottawa’s decision.”

That said, the Supreme Court of Canada is expected to rule between April and June on the Tsilhqot’in Nation’s claim of ‘declaration of title’ to its territory. The Council of Canadians intervened at the Supreme Court in support of their claim. Lower courts have recognized aboriginal rights in the area of the proposed New Prosperity mine, as did the federal government when it rejected Taseko’s original proposal in 2010. If the Supreme Court recognizes Tsilhqot’in title to the land, the mine could not proceed.