WILLIAMS LAKE, B.C. - A federal panel weighing the future of a previously rejected gold and copper mine in British Columbia says the company has not provided sufficient information to proceed with the new environmental assessment.
The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency panel wrote to Taseko Mines Limited this week, requesting additional information on the cumulative effects of the proposed open-pit mine to be located approximately 125 kilometres southwest of Williams Lake, B.C.
The company responded the next day with a letter expressing frustration with the request.
"It is discouraging that the panel has used an apparent technicality to stop the timeline remaining for the panel to complete its review," wrote John McManus, senior vice-president of operations.
"Taseko does not agree that there is a deficiency in the (environmental impact statement) related to the approach that was used to assess the cumulative environmental effects which would cause the panel to determine that the EIS is not sufficient to proceed to panel hearings."
The original application for the $1.1-billion New Prosperity project received provincial approval but was rejected by a federal panel in 2010.
Taseko (TSX: TKO) resubmitted the environmental impact statement in September. The panel rejected an earlier draft submission, saying it lacked information.
Taseko's revised plan and resubmitted application included an additional $300 million in costs in order to save Fish Lake, a water body culturally significant to local First Nations that the original proposal would have drained to use as a tailings pond.
Taseko said the original assessment found that there were no significant adverse effects on vegetation, deer, moose and other wildlife or surface and groundwater. Therefore, there is no need for this panel to revisit those issues, the company said.
The first panel found only grizzly bears and fish and fish habitat could suffer cumulative adverse effects, Taseko wrote, so only those issues need to be addressed.
The panel responded Thursday.
"The panel disagrees, and finds Taseko's cumulative effects assessment methodology and, accordingly, the (environmental impact statement) deficient," said the letter to McManus signed by panel chairman Bill Ross.
Ross said the panel is not bound by the findings of the previous panel.
"Taseko narrowed the scope of its cumulative effects assessment in a manner that is inconsistent with the (environmental impact statement) guidelines and the act," he wrote, reiterating the request for additional information.
Several area First Nations oppose the mine, which they claim will affect fish and wildlife outside well beyond Fish Lake.
The panel's final report to the minister is expected within 235 days after the company submits the final environmental impact statement.
In October, the Vancouver-based mining company reported a third-quarter loss of $3.9 million, compared to a profit of $30 million for the same quarter of 2011.
- By Dene Moore in Vancouver
Also on HuffPost:
Canadian soldier Patrick Cloutier and Saskatchewan Native Brad Laroque alias "Freddy Kruger" come face to face in a tense standoff at the Kahnesatake reserve in Oka, Quebec, Saturday September 1, 1990. Twenty plus years after an armed standoff at Oka laid Canada's often difficult relationship with its native peoples bare in international headlines, the bitterly contested land remains in legal limbo. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Shaney Komulainen)
A warrior raises his weapon as he stands on an overturned police vehicle blocking a highway at the Kahnesetake reserve near Oka, Quebec July 11, 1990 after a police assault to remove Mohawk barriers failed. Twenty plus years after an armed standoff at Oka laid Canada's often difficult relationship with its native peoples bare in international headlines, the bitterly contested land remains in legal limbo. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tom Hanson)
A Quebec Metis places a stick with an eagle feather tied to it into the barrel of a machine gun mounted on an army armored vehicle at Oka Thursday, Aug. 23, 1990. The vehicle was one of two positioned a few metres away from the barricade causing a breakdown in negotiations. Twenty plus years after an armed standoff at Oka laid Canada's often difficult relationship with its native peoples bare in international headlines, the bitterly contested land remains in legal limbo. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Bill Grimshaw)
A Mohawk Indian winds up to punch a soldier during a fight that took place on the Khanawake reserve on Montreal's south shore in 1990. The army broke up the fight by shooting into the air. Twenty plus years after an armed standoff at Oka laid Canada's often difficult relationship with its native peoples bare in international headlines, the bitterly contested land remains in legal limbo. (CP PHOTO)
Two aboriginal protesters man a barricade near the entrance to Ipperwash Provincial Park, near Ipperwash Beach, Ont., on Sept. 7, 1995. (CP PHOTO)
Ken Wolf, 9, walks away from a graffiti-covered smoldering car near the entrance to the Ipperwash Provincial Park in this September 7, 1995 photo. A group of aboriginal protesters were occupying the park and nearby military base. (CP PHOTO)
Caledonian activist Gary McHale (right) is confronted by a Six Nations Protester as he attempts to lead members of Canadian Advocates for Charter Equality (CANACE) in carrying a makeshift monument to Six Nations land in Caledonia, Ont., on Sunday February 27, 2011. CANACE claim inequality in treatment for Caledonian residents from Ontario Provincial Police compared to that of the Six Nation population. They planned to plant a monument of six nation property to demand an apology from the OPP, but were turned back by protesters. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
First Nations people of the Grand River Territory stand with protest signs as they force the redirection of the Vancover 2010 Olympic Torch Relay from entering The Six Nations land Monday, December 21, 2009 near Caledonia, Ontario. The Olympic torch's journey across Canada was forced to take a detour in the face of aboriginal opposition to the Games, with an Ontario First Nation rerouting its relay amid a protest from a splinter group in the community. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dave Chidley)
Six Nations protesters guard the front entrance of a housing development in Hagersville, Ont., just south of the 15-month aboriginal occupation at Caledonia on Wednesday, May 23, 2007. The protest was peaceful. (CP PHOTO/Nathan Denette)
Mohawk protestors block a road near the railway tracks near Marysville, Ont. with a bus and a bonfire Friday April 21, 2006. The natives showed their support to fellow natives in Caledonia, Ont. where they were in a stand off with police regarding land claims.(CP PHOTO/Jonathan Hayward)