Taseko Mines Ltd. [TKO-TSX; TGB-NYSE American] on Friday December 6 released an update related to its New Prosperity copper-gold project near Williams Lake, British Columbia.
The company said the Tsilhqot’in Nation as represented by the Tsilhqot’in national government and Taseko Mines have entered into a dialogue, facilitated by the Province of British Columbia, to try and obtain a long-term solution to the conflict regarding the proposed New Prosperity mine, acknowledging Taseko’s commercial interests and the opposition of the Tsilhqot’in Nation to the project.
While Taseko said the details of the process are confidential, in order to facilitate a dialogue, the parties have agreed to a standstill on certain outstanding litigation and regulatory matters, which relate to Taseko’s tenures and the area in the vicinity of the Teztan Biny (Fish Lake).
Taseko shares rallied on the news, rising 5.8% or $0.03 to 55 cents. The shares trade in a 52-week range of 50 cents and $1.05.
Taseko is a Vancouver-based company with a portfolio that includes the Gibraltar copper-molybdenum mine in B.C. and the Florence Copper Project in Arizona. Gibraltar is expected to produce 130 million pounds of copper this year.
It 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.
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.
However, in June, 2019, Taseko announced that the Supreme Court of Canada had cleared the way for it to undertake geotechnical work at the New Prosperity Project. The Supreme Court of Canada dismissed the Tsilhqot’in First Nation’s (TNG) application to appeal an earlier judgement by the B.C. Supreme Court and the British Columbia Court of Appeal.
Taseko said the court decision has confirmed the resilience of B.C.’s current mine permitting process.
The TNG previously launched a legal bid to stop exploration drilling in the Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) area, after it alleged that the provincial government breached its duty to consult and accommodate the TNG in approving contentious plans for further exploration in the region.
However, that bid was unsuccessful after the Supreme Court of B.C.’s August 23, 2018 decision allowed Taseko to proceed with investigative work.
“Getting permission to mine in British Columbia may be difficult, but it’s not impossible. It just takes patience,” said the company’s CEO Russell Hallbauer.
Hallbauer said the New Prosperity deposit is rare. He said it ranks as the largest undeveloped copper-gold deposit in Canada and is easily among the top 15 in the world. “It can be a powerhouse for economic change in B.C.’s central interior,” he said. “It can be a positive game changer for First Nations as well.’’
Hallbauer went on to say that with B.C. lumber manufacturers closing mills and curtailing operations, potential mines like New Prosperity offer renewed hope and opportunity, especially for the people of the interior. “People should never give up on its potential, nor the value and opportunity it can deliver to all the people of B.C.,” he said.