December 9, 2013

Taseko files for judicial review of gold mine assessment

Taseko Mines Ltd. is applying for a judicial review of a federal panel's findings regarding a proposed gold mine near Williams Lake, B.C., but First Nations say the legal action is an attack on the environmental assessment process.

“Taseko had no choice but to file this application in order to comply with a 30 day time limit,” said Taseko president and CEO Russell Hallbauer.

“But, we remain of the view that the federal government should allow the project to proceed to the next stage of detailed permit-level examination and if so, the judicial review would not need to proceed.”

Taseko filed an application to the federal court of Canada in Vancouver on Nov. 29.

It aims to quash the findings of an Oct. 31 report by the federal panel reviewing the proposed New Prosperity copper-gold mine.

Hallbauer claims estimates of the volume of tailings pore water seepage leaving the tailings storage facility are invalid.

This includes the panel’s decision to base its analysis on modeling undertaken by Natural Resources Canada.

He wants the federal court to set aside the panel’s conclusion that the construction of the gold mine near Williams Lake will have a significant adverse environmental impact on Fish Lake, fish habitat and ecosystems.

Taseko’s submission argues that the design used by Natural Resources Canada is completely different than Taseko’s design because it did not include the low permeability basin liner.

As a result, natural Resource Canada used the wrong project model and design, which assumed water would leak into Fish Lake through more pervious overburden and fractured bedrock.

For this reason, Taseko argues in its application that “the panel based its decision on an erroneous finding of fact that it made in a perverse or capricious manner and without regard for the material before it.”

Taseko’s submission also argues “the panel erred in law in failing to consider case law which makes clear that post-environmental assessment permitting and related information gathering and mitigation measures are to be considered when assessing the potential for significant adverse environmental effects.”

In addition, Taseko argues the panel’s conduct of the public hearing process was unfair and showed undue deference to one category of parties.

This created a hostile hearing environment for Taseko and the parties in support of the project.

In response, the Tsilhqot’in National Government said Taseko’s application for a judicial review is a continuation of previous unfounded allegations and an attack on the integrity of the panel.

“We’re accustomed to this company’s contempt for the environmental review process,” said Chief Roger William of the Xeni Gwet’in First Nations Government.

“Now that we have two scathing independent expert panel reports, this company will do anything to salvage this disastrous proposal, but in our view there’s simply no way that two independent panels got it wrong.”

From the Tsilhqot’in perspective, the panel’s findings were based on numerous issues and concerns.

Taseko is proposing the construction of a large open pit gold-copper mine 125-km south west of Williams Lake.

The $1 billion project involves the construction of an onsite mill and support infrastructure, a tailings storage facility, a 125-km long electrical transmission line, explosives factory and magazine, and an access road. The federal government rejected the original proposal in October 2010, because the project would have drained Fish Lake for use as a tailings pond for chemical waste.

However, the CEAA decided in November 2011 that the proposed mine project will undergo a second environmental assessment.

Under Taseko’s new plan, an additional $300 million will be invested to preserve Fish Lake and vital fish habitats by relocating the tailings storage facility two kilometres upstream from the lake and introducing a lake recirculation water management scheme.

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