An aboriginal band has been granted an injunction preventing Taseko Mines from conducting exploration work around its proposed gold and copper mine in B.C.’s central Interior.
In the same court hearing, Taseko failed in its bid for an injunction forcing the Tsilhqot'in First Nation to stop blocking the company's access to the site outside Williams Lake, B.C.
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Christopher Grauer ruled Friday the band wasn't properly consulted on two permits granted to Taseko by the provincial government.
Justice Grauer said the First Nation will suffer greater harm than Taseko if the exploration and trail building work for the proposed New Prosperity mine continues.
The injunction will be in force until the First Nation can launch a judicial review over the provincial government permits.
“Obviously this is the result we were looking for,” said Jay Nelson, the band's lawyer.
“I think it's the right decision. It gives everybody some space now to try to get the consultation process right for these approvals, so it gives the Crown a chance to come back and do its job properly.”
Taseko lawyers had told Justice Grauer the company's workers needed to be on the land to prepare for the federal government's environmental review for the massive project, which was initially rejected by Ottawa because of environmental concerns.
But company lawyer Brian Battison said the ruling in the band's favour was “not entirely unexpected.”
“Matters of reconciliation and consultation are complicated matters at times and so there's slight delay that we have to endure before we get on with our work,” he said following the ruling.
Mr. Battison has said the company has made efforts to consult with the band on the mine, but the band has refused to come to the table.
On Friday, he said talks are important.
“If people aren't talking, then resolution is much more difficult to find,” he said.
As he ended his judgment, Justice Grauer urged the lawyer for the First Nation to convince his client and the provincial government to explore reconciliation talks over the mine issue.
The judge also concluded the band should pay court costs as a result of its unlawful blockade of the mine site.
Taseko wanted an injunction and enforcement order against the band, saying it had taken the law into its own hands and obstructed a public road.
The company has 12 months to complete the necessary work at the site needed for a second federal government environmental process, but says the band is refusing to allow workers on the land.
The First Nation wanted the court to keep the mining firm out of its territory, preventing it from doing any work until the B.C. Appeal Court rules on the band's case involving aboriginal title in certain claim areas.
The B.C. Appeal Court reserved its decision late last year on the case and set no time for releasing its ruling.
Tsilhqot'in Chief Marilyn Baptiste has said the B.C. government simply rubber stamped Taseko's permits and licences for the mine, without consulting with them as required.
The mine has a controversial history. The proposal for the $1.1-billion mine was approved by the B.C. government, but was rejected in a federal government environmental review last year.
Earlier this month, Ottawa agreed to hear a second environmental review after Taseko reworked the project, planned to spend an extra $300-million to address environmental concerns and promised to save Fish Lake, which band members say is culturally significant to them.