MAC: Mines and Communities

Canada: Taseko seeks damages over Prosperity decision

Published by MAC on 2014-10-17
Source: Business Vancouver

Taseko seeks damages over Prosperity decision

Mining company says officials acted improperly in rejection of massive gold-copper mine

Business Vancouver

14 October 2014

A change in legal tactic with a move to sue the federal government for damages for rejecting the New Prosperity mine project is by no means a sign that Taseko Mines Ltd. is throwing in the towel, a company spokesman said.

“Not by any stretch are we giving up on this,” said Brian Battison, Taseko’s vice-president of corporate affairs.

On October 22, the Federal Court of Canada is scheduled to hear an application by Taseko to convert into a civil suit two judicial review applications of a federal review panel decision rejecting the New Prosperity mine project. The application means Taseko no longer wants the Federal Court to just quash the review panel’s decision – it wants to up the ante by getting permission to sue the attorney general of Canada and minister of environment for damages.

Meanwhile, even if the company is successful on that front, it has a continuing battle to fight on the First Nations front.

Last week, two tribes belonging to the Tsilhqot’in First Nation, which is vehemently opposed to the New Prosperity mine, proclaimed a new tribal park in the area where the New Prosperity mine would be located, about 125 kilometres southwest of Williams Lake.

The boundaries of the Dasiqox Tribal Park have yet to be finalized, but a formal totem pole raising ceremony was conducted at Fish Lake on October 4, declaring it a sacred site.

Taseko originally planned to drain Fish Lake to create a tailings pond for the New Prosperity mine.

After the original plan was rejected by a federal review panel, the company spent several million dollars coming up with an alternative plan that would not require the lake to be drained, but that too was rejected.

Taseko originally filed two judicial reviews asking the Federal Court to overturn the decisions. Asked why the company has now decided to seek damages in civil court, rather than let the judicial review play out first, Battison said it was only in the discovery period that the company learned of what it believes to be deliberate “misfeasance” (acts that are legal but performed improperly) on the part of government officials.

According to Taseko’s application to the court, panel officials and the Ministry of Environment had private meetings with the Tsilhqot’in and other First Nations leaders – meetings to which Taseko was not privy – and received a 59-page report from the Tsilhqot’in, which Taseko was never told about and to which it had no opportunity to respond.

“Our filing says that government officials engaged in misfeasance in public office,” Battison said.

Taseko has not put a dollar figure to the compensation it is asking for. However, Battison said the company has spent $140 million trying to develop the $1.5 billion New Prosperity mine. And the loss of potential revenue to the company is estimated to be $2 billion.

New Prosperity is considered to be the richest undeveloped gold-copper deposit in Canada.

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