Challenge to Red Chris mine overturned

Mon Jun 16, 2008 11:50am EDT
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TORONTO (Reuters) - A Canadian appeals court has set aside a lower court decision that had blocked approvals for the Red Chris copper and gold mine in British Columbia, mine owner Imperial Metals said on Monday.

"Federal regulatory authorities are now authorized to issue regulatory approvals for the Red Chris project to proceed," the company said in a statement.

The company's shares jumped 62 Canadian cents to C$8.50 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Environmental watchdog group MiningWatch Canada challenged the 2006 environmental approvals for the mine last year, and a Federal Court ruled in September that the federal environmental assessment of the mine was procedurally incorrect.

Red Chris, which Imperial Metals acquired when it took over BCMetals last year, should produce 1.8 billion pounds of copper and 1.2 million ounces of gold over a 25-year mine life, according to a 2004 study, although the company says additional drilling suggests the deposit is much larger.

MiningWatch had argued the federal environmental approvals had incorrectly been carried out only as a screening exercise, and not as a comprehensive study that would have included public consultations.

The appeals court ruled that the federal government was acting within its discretion to provide only a screening report, Imperial said, noting that the British Columbia provincial government had previously conducted a full environmental assessment in 2005.

The decision could face appeal at the Supreme Court of Canada, Imperial said.

($1=$1.02 Canadian)

(Reporting by Cameron French; Editing by Peter Galloway)