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TORONTO — Prime Minister Stephen Harper sought to reassure the mining industry that his government was on its side after spurning the development of a high-profile gold and copper project in British Columbia.
In a surprise visit to a mining conference in Toronto, Mr. Harper defended his Conservative government’s rejection of Taseko Mines Ltd.’s New Prosperity project in the region of Cariboo-Chilcotin but said that did not mean the door was closed forever.
“The environmental assessment was extremely negative,” Mr. Harper told the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada conference.
But, he said, “We don’t like to see communities and regions deprived of what are obviously … significant opportunities for people in the region. “They are always in a position to examine the environmental assessment and to propose a new project based on their attempts to address some of the issues.”
It was the second time New Prosperity was rejected and Taseko has vowed not to give up on developing the open-pit mine, which has deeply divided the region.
Mr. Harper’s attendance at the mining conference was the first time a sitting prime minister has participated, speaking to the event’s growing popularity and influence as the world’s largest mining gathering.
The four-day conference is expected to draw nearly 30,000 delegates from more than 125 countries, including China, the United States and Mexico.
Mr. Harper also announced the renewal of a tax credit to help mineral exploration. The tax incentive comes at a particularly painful time for the mining industry, which has lost billions of dollars in value and had to shelve projects because of the downturn in commodity prices.
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