British Columbia minister pushes Taseko mine with Ottawa visit

Thu Dec 12, 2013 2:33pm EST
 
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By Julie Gordon

VANCOUVER Dec 12 (Reuters) - British Columbia is courting federal support for a copper-gold mining project in the Canadian province's interior, which a federal review panel recommended be rejected due to significant risks to the environment and local communities.

The province's minister of energy and mines, Bill Bennett, was in Ottawa on Thursday to meet with federal ministers on the New Prosperity project, owned by Taseko Mines Ltd, ahead of a final ruling by federal regulators.

An independent review panel said in October that the mine should not be built, as it could threaten water quality in a trout-bearing lake beside the mine site, and impact land and resources used for traditional purposes by local aboriginals.

But Bennett argued the project, located some 550 km (340 miles) north of Vancouver, poses no more threat than any other mining project in the province.

"Despite the fact that significant environmental risk was identified, it is possible to build this mine," he told Reuters late on Wednesday. "We do it on a regular basis here in B.C."

Bennett added the mine would be required to meet the most stringent provincial and federal standards in order to protect Fish Lake, a sacred site for the local Tsilhqot'in aboriginal people, and the surrounding environment.

Bennett spoke with Reuters ahead of a day of meetings with four federal ministers and several members of parliament from British Columbia. He will not meet with Canada's Environment Minister, Leona Aglukkaq, who is expected to make her final decision on the proposal by the end of February.

Bennett noted that the economic benefits of the development are crucial at a time when forestry jobs in the region are under threat from a pine beetle epidemic.   Continued...