The Wilderness Committee’s lawyer has filed defence papers with the Supreme Court of British Columbia today in response to the Taseko Mines Ltd.’s Notice of Civil Claim that had been served on the committee earlier this month.
Taseko’s claim accuses the committee and its outreach director Sven Biggs for “a series of false and defamatory statements concerning Taseko and its proposed New Prosperity Gold-Copper Project.”
According to Taseko’s claim, some of the alleged defamatory statements include: Taseko’s original proposal was to use Fish Lake as its tailings pond, where the company would store toxic waste rock produced by its mining operations; Taseko’s engineers offered Little Fish Lake as an alternate site for the tailings pond; that the toxins from the Little Fish Lake site would make their way downstream to Fish Lake; and that the new mine plan that Taseko seeks approval for proposes to turn Little Fish Lake into a toxic tailings pond.
“Taseko welcomes a full, thorough and open process to evaluate the merits of New Prosperity project, which we believe will be a big win for British Columbia, First Nations and Canada,” says Russell Hallbauer, CEO of Taseko, in a March 1 news release. “We cannot, however, stand idly by when certain parties such as the Western Canada Wilderness Committee mislead the public about the project. The facts do matter. All parties benefit from an open and fair discussion of the facts, not false, misleading and harmful inaccuracies.”
According to the committee’s response to civil claim papers, “the defendants say that this defamation action is without merit, and that based upon the plaintiff’s own public statements and prior environmental review panel conclusions, the words complained of are not defamatory and are in any event protected by the defences of truth, fair comment or responsible communications; and that this action should be dismissed with special costs against the plaintiff for attempting to use the litigation process to silence critics on a matter of fundamental public interest.”
Dan Burnett, the committee’s lawyer, in a news release, says: “What the Wilderness Committee is asking the courts to do in its filed Response to the Claim is uphold the Wilderness Committee’s right to free speech on this important environmental issue, dismiss the action and impose extra court costs upon Taseko for attempting to use the litigation process to silence critics.”