By David P. Ball.
Taseko Mines back in court against Wilderness Committee in tailings pond war of words. A prominent British Columbia environmental group “knowingly mischaracterized” the risks posed by a tailings pond proposed by Taseko Mines, the company’s lawyer argued in the B.C. Court of Appeal on Wednesday.
Taseko’s proposed New Prosperity gold and copper mine, near Williams Lake, has been opposed by the Tsilhqot’in National Government and the Wilderness Committee, which is the defendant in a years-old defamation suit from the firm. The company took its case to the appeals court after losing in the Supreme Court of B.C., which ruled the environmental organization didn’t defame Taseko and that its demands posed an “economic threat.”
In dispute was an article on the group’s website — “Save Fish Lake (Again)!” — alleging that the firm wanted to build a mine tailings pond that would destroy a local fish-bearing lake. But after the government rejected that plan, Taseko had submitted a redesigned version of the proposal the tailings storage facility would be beside a lake, and had a number of safeguards such as an “impermeable membrane” to prevent seepage.
… At one point, one of the judges hearing the case interrupted the company’s lawyer to ask why an avowedly environmental advocacy organization would need to list all the company’s promised mitigation measures in its advocacy. “Why would they have to say that?” justice Elizabeth Bennett asked. “I’m having trouble understanding that point. They’re an organization that represents a certain point of view — they’re not reporting, they’re putting forward a position. “Why is there a need to put forward the other side, isn’t that what Taseko would be doing?”
Last year, when the Supreme Court of B.C. ruled against Taseko Mines Ltd., it rejected its request for “punitive damages” against the Wilderness Committee with strong words. “In this case, seeking punitive damages was an economic threat,” the judge declared. “In the context of a defamation action, seeking punitive damages may serve to silence critics.”