(Ottawa, December 2, 2013) On October 31 a federally appointed independent review panel released a scathing report of Taseko Mine’s proposed New Prosperity gold-copper project. This was the second negative assessment for the project – the previous review released in July 2010 resulted in the federal Minister of the Environment rejecting the project as then presented. Since the release of the second panel’s report, Taseko has resorted to a variety of public relations tactics to try and raise doubts about the panel findings.
Yesterday Taseko filed a request for a judicial review of the panel findings. Prior to this the company publicly questioned the panel findings and wrote an open letter to Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq. In the letter and judicial review application the company takes issue with most of the panel’s findings, despite the striking similarity they bear to the previous panel’s findings, which were accepted by the government.
The move has not buoyed Taseko in the market. The company’s stock price continued the slow decline it has been following since it dropped dramatically on the release of the review panel report. At some point, surely, shareholders will have had enough of management sinking more resources into a project the Northern Miner called “dead mine walking”.
In its latest statements, Taseko continues its efforts to deny the project’s negative effects on the Tŝilhqot’in and Secwepemc people. The letter to Aglukkaq concludes with reference to the only person from the affected Indigenous communities that has gone on record to support the project – former Chief Ervin Charleyboy. While Mr. Charleyboy is entitled to his own opinion he is in no way representative. Much more relevant to the review process, and the future of this project, is the opposition from all levels of First Nations governments and the overwhelming rejection of the project by the people that would bear the brunt of the negative impacts identified by both review panels.
The technical crux of Taseko’s claims is that Natural Resources Canada erred in calculating the amount of water that might leak from the massive tailings dump proposed to be constructed 2 km upstream from Teztan Biny (Fish Lake). While this is certainly an important issue, as a quote cited in the company’s own letter states, there are a “multitude of factors” related to the project’s potential adverse effects on fish. Seepage from the tailings impoundment is but one of them.
“The company’s claims of NRCan using the wrong project design are easily refuted, but seepage from the tailings impoundment is just one of the reasons the panel determined the company’s claims of saving Teztan Biny do not hold water,” stated Ramsey Hart, Canada Program Coordinator for MiningWatch Canada. The project proposal included a system to recirculate the outflow of the lake back to the inlet, a process the Panel determined would lead to serious degradation in water quality.
“The public attacks on the review panel accusing it of reaching “fundamentally flawed” conclusions and creating an environment hostile to Taseko is just the latest in a long list of questionable tactics employed by the company,” added Hart.
During the previous review the company tried to have a member of the review panel removed for bias towards Indigenous peoples and initiated a SLAPP suit against the Western Canadian Wilderness Committee. More recently the editors of the Northern Miner reported being threatened with an advertising boycott if they did not provide more favourable coverage of the company. During the latest review Taseko also tried to get traditional ceremonies banned from panel proceedings.
Ramsey Hart, Canada Program Coordinator, MiningWatch Canada (613) 569-3439