VANCOUVER — Shares of Taseko Mines Ltd. fell Friday as First Nations groups called on Ottawa to reject the company’s New Prosperity mine proposal in British Columbia after a new study raised environmental concerns.
Taseko shares were down 33 cents at $2.23 in trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
The First Nations Summit, which represents dozens of B.C. aboriginal groups within the treaty process, called on Ottawa to reject the project following the report by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.
It said Taseko has underestimated the volume of water that would leave a tailings storage facility and there was “considerable uncertainty” regarding Taseko’s contingency plan for water treatment.
“Clearly this report should provide the federal government the necessary evidence to immediately reject, yet again, Taseko’s Prosperity Mine proposal”, said summit executive Grand Chief Edward John in a news release.
The project received provincial approval in 2010, but Ottawa rejected the original plan, which would have drained a lake of cultural significance to First Nations for use as a tailings pond.
Taseko submitted a revised plan for the project in the Chilcotin region of B.C. and said it would save Fish Lake and prevent contamination from groundwater seepage from a tailings pond that it would instead locate several kilometres away.
The company said it will challenge the report’s findings regarding water quality.
“The risks are modest and the social and economic benefits are enormous,” the company said in a statement Friday.
“With any major project there will be different views and some trade-offs, but we are confident the federal government can and will approve this project.”
The final decision on whether the project will receive an environmental certificate to proceed is up to federal Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq.
B.C. Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett said mines can’t be built without causing significant environmental issues, and he believes the question is whether those issues outweigh any economic benefits.
He hoped Ottawa overrides review panel findings that the mine will pollute a lake sacred to First Nations and development will trample aboriginal interests in the area 550 kilometres northeast of Vancouver.
Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs Grand Chief Stewart Phillip said the project is the wrong development in the wrong place and urged Ottawa to close the file on it.
The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs is warning of a court challenge if New Prosperity is allowed to proceed.