Taseko requests Federal Court review of New Prosperity environmental assessment

VANCOUVER – The proponent of a once-rejected gold mine in the British Columbia Interior has filed an application for judicial review of a second critical environmental assessment that found the project would cause significant adverse environmental effects.

Taseko Mines Ltd. (TSX:TKO) is asking the Federal Court to quash the federal panel findings and declare that panel members failed to observe procedural fairness at the hearings held earlier this year.

The panel “based its decision on an erroneous finding of fact that it made in a perverse or capricious manner or without regard to the material before it…,” said the application filed in Vancouver on Monday.

Taseko said the panel based its conclusions on faulty information — failing to account for a design feature intended to prevent seepage of contaminant material from a tailings storage facility.

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

“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.”

The latest application was the second attempt by the company to have the project approved.

Taseko originally proposed draining a lake of significance to area First Nations, and using it as a tailings pond. In the revised proposal, the company said Fish Lake would be saved and a tailings pond built elsewhere.

Following the second public hearing process, the report last month by the Canadian Environment Assessment Agency panel said it did not believe Taseko’s design for the project could avoid contaminating the lake.

The assessment found the project would have “significant adverse environmental effects” on water quality, fish and fish habitat in the lake, on grizzly habitat and on First Nations traditional activities.

Chief Russell Myers Ross of the Yunesit’in First Nation, a member of the Tsilhqot’in government that has vehemently opposed the project, said the application comes as no surprise.

“The company really had few options left once the panel report came out,” he said.

He said the design feature the company has singled out — a liner that would be installed at the tailings storage facility — does not change the findings of the panel on most of the issues, including traditional aboriginal activities.

Myers Ross said the Tsilhqot’in are reviewing the application, and will likely apply to the court to take part in any review.

The final decision on allowing the mine to proceed is in the hands of federal Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq.

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency has said it is reviewing the information provided by Taseko concerning the information used by the panel.