B.C. mines minister to lobby for New Prosperity project – by Derrick Penner (Vancouver Sun – December 10, 2013)

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Environmental review found long list of concerns, but Bill Bennett says B.C. economy needs the mine

Mines Minister Bill Bennett is heading to Ottawa to support the contentious New Prosperity mine proposal in the Cariboo, the minister said Tuesday.

Bennett, speaking to project boosters brought together by the B.C. Chamber of Commerce in Vancouver, said he will go to the national capital Thursday to tell his federal counterparts that the province considers the $1.5-billion New Prosperity mine an important piece in its economic plan.

“I’m going to seek to influence the decision, of course,” Bennett said to reporters. “I want them to say yes because they can say yes. I want to make sure they have all the information to do that.”

A decision on whether the open-pit copper-gold mine goes ahead rests with federal Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq. She is studying a second review by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, which concluded the mine would have significant environmental impacts. Taseko Mines Ltd. is disputing a major element that went into that conclusion.

Taseko revised its initial proposal for the mine, 125 kilometres southwest of Williams Lake, after its first proposal was rejected by the assessment agency in 2010.

Bennett said it wouldn’t be appropriate to meet with Aglukkaq because she is the statutory decision maker, but intends to press his point with others at Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s cabinet table, including Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver, Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt and Labour Minister Kellie Leitch.

“What I want to do is provide information, I want to make sure the federal government understands that we do this in British Columbia,” Bennett said of open-pit mining.

“We have the technology and expertise to see that this is done,” in a responsible fashion, he said.

Bennett said the latest environmental review included 28 recommendations for addressing environmental concerns that could easily be made conditions of the mine’s approval.

His message to the federal ministers is that the project is important to the province in conjunction with Premier Christy Clark’s jobs plan, “and we need to build some things if we’re going to meet our targets in that plan.”

Bennett acknowledged that the mine faces opposition from the Tsihlqot’in First Nation, but he believes there is still an opportunity to answer its concerns and offer support through means such as sharing mineral royalties that would come from the mine.

B.C. Chamber of Commerce CEO John Winter said the intent of Tuesday’s event was to send a “consolidated message” to Ottawa “to make sure the federal government knows there’s strong support for the proposal.”

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