by Greg Klein | August 28, 2018
In theory, the latest court decision regarding Taseko Mines’ (TSX:TKO) New Prosperity project might have brought some clarity to Canada’s vaguely defined “duty to consult.” But how that plays out in practice remains to be seen.
On August 28 the company stated that last week’s British Columbia Supreme Court decision overrules native objection to an exploration permit. The ruling allows Taseko to collect data that might overcome a 2014 federal environmental rejection for the proposed gold-copper open pit in the province’s south-central area.
Calling the decision “unequivocal,” company president/CEO Russell Hallbauer said it affirmed the province’s “authority to approve resource development work even in the face of aboriginal opposition. The Crown’s obligation is to consult with aboriginal people and to accommodate their interests where reasonable to do so. However, there is no duty or obligation to secure aboriginal support for the work being proposed.”
In 2010 a predecessor project called Prosperity met federal environmental rejection which largely focused on a plan to convert a 118-hectare lake into a tailings facility. Taseko then submitted a $300-million revision called New Prosperity, which would relocate the tailings. In the face of continued objection by the Tsilhqot’in National Government, Ottawa delivered its second rejection in 2014.
New Prosperity did, however, win provincial environmental approval and had the support of B.C.’s previous Liberal government. Last week’s court decision ruled on a challenge to an exploration permit granted under the Liberals.
“From our perspective, the permit is like the Liberal party giving a welcoming present of infected smallpox blankets to the junior incoming NDP government,” commented Tsilhqot’in chairperson Joe Alphonse. “The proper steps would be to pull the pin on this permit. The NDP government has the power to do so and should do the honourable thing—something that the former B.C. Liberal government wouldn’t do. We will be exhausting all options to ensure our cultural, spiritual and sacred lands are protected for the use of current and future generations.”
Last year the Tsilhqot’in petitioned the legislature to create a “tribal park” that would preserve the area including New Prosperity.
A 2009 estimate credited the proposed mine with measured and indicated resources totalling 1.01 billion tonnes averaging 0.41 g/t gold and 0.24% copper for 13.3 million ounces gold and 5.3 billion pounds copper. A report commissioned by Taseko forecast 71,000 direct and indirect jobs, $4.3 billion in federal taxes and $5.52 billion in provincial taxes resulting from the mine.
Taseko also holds a 75% interest in Canada’s second-largest open pit copper mine, the Gibraltar operation in south-central B.C. In Arizona, the company’s Florence copper mine is expected to begin production by year-end.