Taseko Mines Ltd. issued an open letter in local, regional and national newspapers Wednesday reassuring anyone who hung their hopes on the Prosperity gold and copper mine in northern British Columbia that the company isn't giving up.
Last week, the federal government rejected the $1-billion mine proposal, which would be located 125 kilometres southwest of Williams Lake, citing environmental concerns.
In a letter published in several newspapers, Taseko president and CEO Russell Hallbauer said Ottawa's decision was a huge disappointment not just for the company, but for the B.C. government and local residents.
Hallbauer said the company plans to submit a new proposal after carefully studying the reasons the federal government rejected its original plan.
"Ottawa says they will consider a new proposal from us," he wrote. "Before taking that step, we must learn the reasons why the first proposal was rejected. Understanding the reasons will enable us to address their concerns and work to reduce or eliminate them."
While both the federal and provincial environmental reviews raised concerns about fish and wildlife in the area, the provincial review recommended the project go ahead because the economic benefits outweighed the environmental concerns.
But the federal government turned down the plan, saying its own environmental assessment was "scathing."
Several First Nations in the area also strongly opposed the project, mainly because Fish Lake would be used as a tailings pond.
Hallbauer alluded to that opposition in his letter.
"Opponents of Prosperity say they are not against mining, only this particular proposal," he said. "They say they are not against job creation and economic opportunity; their only concern is that it be done with the highest environmental integrity. On this point, we agree."
Taseko spent $100 million over a 17-year period in preparation for the mine proposal.
Brian Battison, Taseko's vice president of corporate affairs, said the company needed to get a message to the many people — especially those in the Cariboo area — who are concerned about the project's future.
"We think there's a path forward," Battison said. "We think once we know the reasons why the proposal was rejected we can prepare another proposal and address those issues."
He said everyone has been left stunned by the federal government's decision.
"Everybody's wondering if we've given up on this project."