Clark presses Harper on B.C. mine

Premier Christy Clark presides over her first cabinet meeting at the B.C. legislature.

VICTORIA – Premier Christy Clark used her first meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper to press for approval of the Prosperity gold mine near Williams Lake.

Harper was in Metro Vancouver this week to take in a Canucks hockey game and participate in a series of funding announcements around B.C. as preparations continue for a possible spring federal election.

Going into her first meetings at the B.C. legislature since being sworn in as premier on Monday, Clark said she didn’t speak with Harper about the timing of a possible B.C. election this year. But she did follow up on a pledge from her leadership campaign to raise the issue of the mine rejected by the federal government last year.

“I told him that I’m interested in making sure that we find a way to get that mine going in British Columbia, because I think it’s important for investment,” she said. “It’s important for jobs, for families across the province to make sure that our rural economies are really working.”

Taseko Mines Ltd. has resubmitted its environmental application for the Prosperity Mine near Williams Lake to the federal government, with a new plan that avoids draining a lake to get at the copper and gold deposit.

In a statement released Feb. 21, Taseko CEO Russell Hallbauer said the price of copper and gold has nearly doubled since his company began its studies in 2005. The rising price of metals has allowed the company to budget an additional $300 million for construction and and operating costs for the life of the mine.

The revised plan preserves Fish Lake, which was proposed to be drained and replaced with an artificial lake to mitigate the habitat loss.

The Tsilhqot’in National Government, which represents aboriginal bands in the region, was dismissive of the new attempt to get environmental approval for the project.

“This latest move by the company leaves little doubt now that its plan all along was to get the cheapest project it could,” said Chief Joe Alphonse, tribal chair of the Tsilhqot’in. “Now it is desperately trying to find any way it can to revive this project regardless of its impact on the environment and our First Nations rights.”

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