Federal government claims Taseko Mines stopped paying environmental assessment bills after panel report critical of New Prosperity mine

BIV's lawsuit of the week

New Prosperity mine site | Photo: NewProsperityProject via YouTube

The federal government is suing Taseko Mines Ltd. for costs incurred for environmental assessment work on the company’s New Prosperity mine project done between 2013 and 2014, claiming Taseko has wrongfully refused to pay more than $870,000.

The Impact Assessment Agency, formerly known as the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, filed a notice of civil claim in BC Supreme Court on December 3. The agency, on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, claims Taseko submitted its original project description in August 2011 for the New Prosperity Gold and Copper Mine Project, triggering an environmental assessment by a three-member panel established in May 2012.

According to the claim, project proponents are “responsible for certain costs” incurred for environmental assessments, originally estimated at $2.2 million. The agency began invoicing Taseko for environmental assessment work in August 2012.

“Work conducted by the Panel, its secretariat, and the [Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency] was conducted in multiple provinces, including different parts of British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec and areas in between,” the claim states, adding that “costs of an environmental assessment are not limited by the cost estimate provided at the initiation of an environmental assessment.”

The agency later revised its estimate, which increased to $2,525,000 in July 2013. The company, meanwhile, paid more than $1 million in invoices between August 2013 and September 2013, a month before the panel found the project “would likely cause significant adverse environmental effects, many of which could not be mitigated.”                  

Thereafter, the Impact Assessment Agency claims, Taseko stopped paying invoices for the environmental assessment work, prompting a demand letter to pay eight invoices totalling $871,450 in March 2017.

“Taseko responded with a letter denying it owed any of the Debts and refusing to pay any of the Debts,” the claim states. “To date, Taseko has failed to pay any of the Debts.”

The agency seeks judgment in the amounts owed on the eight invoices and interest. The allegations have not been tested or proven in court and Taseko had not responded to the claim by press time.