Taseko applauds ruling on First Nation consultation

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Open pit mining at Taseko’s Gibraltar copper-molybdenum mine near Williams Lake, British Columbia. Source: Taseko Mines Ltd.

Taseko Mines Ltd. [TKO-TSE] said Wednesday that the British Columbia government was successful in defending its First Nations consultation process in relation to the company’s controversial New Prosperity gold-copper project.

The company said the Supreme Court of B.C.’s August 23, 2018 decision allows Taseko to proceed with investigative work at the New Prosperity site. This decision reaffirms provincial government authority over mine development in the province and will be beneficial to the future of New Prosperity and also helpful to the mining industry, in general, in B.C., the company said in a press release, Wednesday.

The company issued the release after a legal bid by the Tsilhqot’in Nation (TNG) to stop exploration drilling in the Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) area, about 125 kilometres west of Williams Lake, was dismissed by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Ward K. Branch.

The TNG alleged that the provincial government breached its duty to consult and accommodate the Nation in approving contentious plans for further exploration in the region.

Taseko says New Prosperity is one of Canada’s largest undeveloped copper gold projects. The deposit is a gold-copper porphyry with a one billion tonne measured and indicated resource, containing 5.3 billion pounds of copper and 13.3 million ounces of gold.

If the project was developed, Taseko envisages average annual production of 110 million pounds of copper and 234,000 ounces of gold. The projected mine life is estimated at 33 years.

However, the company has said that in light of Ottawa’s decision not to issue the authorization necessary for the project to proceed, and related ongoing legal proceedings initiated by Taseko, there is considerable uncertainty with respect to successful permitting of the project.

The court decision is the latest in a long line of legal applications and disagreements between the company and the TNG.

The $1.5 billion project was approved by the B.C. government. But Ottawa rejected it twice in 2010 and 2014, on the advice of the Environmental Assessment Agency. The first rejection was based on Taseko’s plan to drain Fish Lake and use it as a tailings impoundment. The company later revised the mine plan to avoid using the lake, but it was again rejected on environmental concerns.

In its press release on Wednesday, the company said the work being proposed is investigative in nature, and will gather hydrological data and other information required for the B.C.  Mines Act Permitting process. The information will also address many of the concerns expressed by the local aboriginal groups (the Tsilhqot’in Nation) during the federal environmental assessment, including outstanding questions relating to environmental protection and the New Prosperity water management plan.

However, the Tsilhqot’in Nation has called on the B.C. government to step up in the wake of the B.C. Supreme Court decision denying the Nation’s legal challenge seeking to overturn a mining exploration permit granted to Taseko.

“The Tsilhqot’in Nation will not stand by as Taseko Mines Ltd. moves forward with a drilling program for a mine that was rejected twice by the Federal Government and cannot be built,” said Chief Joe Alphonse, Tribal Chairman, Tsilhqot’in National Government in a news release.

The TNG said the permit granted to Taseko authorizes the company to clear 76 kilometres of new or modified road and trail, 122 drill holes, 367 excavated test pits and 20 kilometres of seismic lines near Teztan Biny and Nabas, an area of cultural and spiritual significance for the Tsilhqot’in, Alphonse said.

Taseko shares advanced 2.91% or $0.03 to $1.06 in early trading Wednesday. The 52-week range is $2.98 and 90 cents.

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