British Columbia minister supports Taseko mine

December 13, 2013

A Canadian federal review panel in October recommended Taseko Mines’ proposed New Prosperity project in British Columbia be rejected because of potential environmental risks.

However, the province's minister of energy and mines, Bill Bennett, showed his support for the project with a visit to British Columbia ahead of a final ruling by federal regulators.

An independent review panel said that the mine should not be built, as it could threaten water quality in a trout-bearing lake beside the mine site, and impact land and resources used for traditional purposes by local aboriginals, Reuters reported.

But Bennett argued the project, located some 550 km (340 miles) north of Vancouver, poses no more threat than any other mining project in the province.

"Despite the fact that significant environmental risk was identified, it is possible to build this mine," he told Reuters. "We do it on a regular basis here in B.C."

Bennett added the mine would be required to meet the most stringent provincial and federal standards in order to protect Fish Lake, a sacred site for the local Tsilhqot'in aboriginal people, and the surrounding environment.

Bennett noted that the economic benefits of the development are crucial at a time when forestry jobs in the region are under threat from a pine beetle epidemic.

"It's imperative for that region that they get some good opportunities for employment and economic activity," he said.

"A big mine like this, you're looking at C$1.5 billion ($1.4 billion) to build, 700 really good jobs to construct it and then 500 ongoing jobs to operate it, so that's a pretty significant impact to that economy."

New Prosperity, which Taseko has owned since 1969, has a measured and indicated resource of 5.3 billion lbs of copper and 13.3 million oz of gold, with a 20-year plus mine life. If approved, it could be under construction by the end of 2014.

A previous development proposal for the project was approved by the province, but then overruled by the federal government in 2010, in part because the plan called for Fish Lake to be drained and used as a tailings storage site.

Taseko revised its mine plan to address regulator concerns and reapplied in 2012, but aboriginal groups and other opponents say the revised proposal, if approved, would still harm Fish Lake and the rights of indigenous groups in the area.

The Vancouver-based miner owns and operates the Gibraltar mine, also near Williams Lake, which is the second largest open pit copper mine in the country and the region's top employer.

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