VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Canadian miner Taseko Mines Ltd is suing the government of Canada for damages, escalating its court actions after Ottawa's rejection earlier this year of the company's proposal to build a copper and gold mine in British Columbia.
The small Vancouver-based mining company said in a lawsuit filed in Canada's federal court that it is seeking an unspecified amount of "general, aggravated and punitive damages," costs and other relief that the court sees as just.
Taseko spokesman Brian Battison said the damages could be significant because the rejection of its New Prosperity project has resulted in "the loss of a multi-billion dollar asset."
Taseko values the planned open-pit copper and gold mine at C$1.5 billion ($1.37 billion U.S.) and says it has spent C$130 million so far on developing the project.
The suit, which consolidates two previous judicial reviews brought by Taseko against Ottawa and adds a damages component, was filed on Friday, Battison said.
A representative for Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq, who is named as defendant in the suit, could not immediately be reached for comment after hours.
Taseko asked a federal judge in March to set aside Aglukkaq and the cabinet's February decision to reject the mine.
That followed a judicial review launched last year by Taseko into a government-appointed panel's conclusion that the project was likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects, and harm the interests of nearby First Nations groups. Taseko argues the panel used flawed information to reach its conclusions.
(1 U.S. dollar = 1.0947 Canadian dollar)
Reporting by Nicole Mordant in Vancouver. Editing by Andre Grenon