British Columbia Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett is headed to Ottawa Thursday to push for federal government approval of Taseko Mines Ltd.’s
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) proposed New Prosperity copper and gold mine near Williams Lake.
The move comes just days after the B.C. Supreme Court ordered the provincial government to reconsider an earlier decision to reject another proposed B.C. gold-copper mine, owned by Pacific Booker Minerals Inc.
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) on the basis of a “risk versus benefit” criteria that the province said the company had failed to meet.
Bennett spoke to the B.C. Chamber of Commerce shortly before the trip to Ottawa, saying he is well aware of local opposition from Aboriginal groups to the New Prosperity project.
“Certainly the government of British Columbia is well aware that there is serious opposition to this project from the people of the Tsilhqot’in people and we respect that opposition,” Bennett said.
But he surprised mining officials by declining to comment on the Pacific Booker court ruling.
In October, 2012, the B.C. government rejected Pacific Booker’s plans for the Morrison Lake copper and gold mine near Smithers, saying it could endanger salmon in the Skeena River. The lake is at the headwaters of the Skeena River, which produces the second-largest amount of sockeye salmon in B.C.
But in his court decision, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Affleck found that the administrative process which was followed, including the decision of the previous Minister of the Environment and the previous Minister of Energy & Mines, “failed to comport with the requirements of procedural fairness.”
On Tuesday, Pacific Booker shares jumped 67% as investors reacted to the favourable court decision that was announced the previous day.
On Wednesday, the stock eased 7.1% to $6.50, leaving the company with a market cap of $80.3 million, based on 12.2 million shares outstanding. The 52-week range is $8.38 and $2.45.
Meanwhile, Taseko shares were unchanged at $2.03 Wednesday, leaving a market cap of $391.3 million, based on 192.7 million shares outstanding. The 52-week range is $1.88 and $3.48.
For its part, Taseko is seeking a federal judicial review which aims to set aside certain findings of a review panel report relating to its planned New Prosperity project.
Taseko said the judicial review will address the question of whether Natural Resources Canada (NRCan)– and in turn the panel – made a fundamental error when determining expected seepage rates from a tailings facility at the proposed mine’s storage facility.
Taseko said it believes the evidence is clear that NRCan failed to account for a liner that would be part of the tailings storage facility – thus modeling the wrong project design and assuming that water would seep into the open ground.
Taseko is asking the court for a declaration that certain panel findings relating to seepage and water quality be set aside and that the panel failed in certain respects to comply with principles of procedural fairness.