Taseko Mines Ltd. is hoping to convert two judicial reviews against the environmental assessment of its proposed New Prosperity Mine into one civil action suit.
“We made an application on Friday,” Taseko vice-president of corporate affairs Brian Battison confirmed Monday. “A civil action suit is a more comprehensive undertaking and speaks to the depth and seriousness of the injustice committed by the federal government.”
The Tsilhqot’in chiefs, however, issued a statement Monday alleging the action will delay court action, string along investors, taxpayers and the Tsilhqot’in and waste money on a “dead project.”
“We look forward to getting into the courtroom because in the courtroom the facts are what matter, not spin and political lobbying,” said Chief Joe Alphonse, Tribal Chair for the Tsilhqot’in National Government. “Perhaps that is why TML is afraid to move forward with its judicial reviews and has no intention of getting in front of a judge this year.”
Battison, however, argued the application for civil action is an escalation of the company’s efforts not a delay tactic.
“Conversion of a judicial review into an action is appropriate when it is necessary to address the remedial inadequacies of a judicial review, such as the award of damages, when the facts allowing the court to make a decision cannot be satisfactorily established through affidavit evidence alone,” Battison said.
Both concerns are involved, he added — seeking award of damages and having access to a greater array of legal tools leading up to and during trial, which are not available during a judicial review.
Chief Roger William of the Xeni Gwet’in First Nations Government said the only respectful and responsible course is to finally acknowledge that New Prosperity is not a viable project, and called on Taseko to withdraw the court actions and leave the Tsilhqot’in in peace.
“Our elders and youth are tired of being an afterthought in this company’s plans,” William said. “The Tsilhqot’in welcome the opportunity to focus our attention elsewhere, on environmentally and culturally acceptable projects.”
Alphonse said the Tsilhqot’in question how responsible it is for TML to delay its own court hearings to this extent, but said it isn’t a surprise.
“We’ve seen their court filings and we firmly believe that their claims against the panel and the federal government have no basis in reality,” he said.
Taseko’s application will be heard in court in October and if granted will then proceed to a hearing, Battison said.