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Taseko Mines sues Wilderness Committee for defamation

Taseko Mines Ltd .
Brian Battison, Hunter Dickinson Inc., mining, Russ Hallbauer, Taseko Mines Ltd., Western Canada Wilderness Committee, Taseko Mines sues Wilderness Committee for defamation

Taseko Mines Ltd. (TSX: TKO) has filed suit against Vancouver’s Western Canada Wilderness Committee (WCWC) and its outreach director, Sven Biggs, for defamation regarding the mining company’s New Prosperity copper-gold project near Williams Lake.

The Vancouver-based mining company filed a civil action Thursday in the BC Supreme Court, targeting allegedly defamatory statements Biggs authored about Prosperity on the Wilderness Committee’s website.

Taseko spokesman Brian Battison told Business in Vancouver the Wilderness Committee’s 60,000 members, supporters and volunteers have had access to the alleged defamatory statements, and that those statements could have significantly skewed public opinion against the project.

“We want the record corrected,” said Battison. “We want the membership of the WCWC to be told the real facts. They were sent misinformation and asked to take action based on it, and we want them now to be told the truth, and we want a public apology.”

Taseko CEO Russ Hallbauer said in a statement the company had not taken its course of action lightly, filing the civil claim only after “repeated requests … to correct the record.”

The $1.1 billion New Prosperity project is a revision of an earlier proposal that was rejected in 2010 by the federal government due to company’s plan to drain Fish Lake for the storage of non-acid generating rock.

In the spring of 2011, Taseko came back with a new proposal that would save Fish Lake, but the Wilderness Committee criticized the plan as even worse, from an environmental perspective, than the original one.

Taseko proposes to move a tailings pond to accommodate the lake, shifting its location two kilometres to the south. However, Taseko said it would still have to drain neighbouring Little Fish Lake to make way for the tailings pond. (See “Taseko rolls the dice again” – issue 1114; March 1-7, 2011.)

The revised proposal is now subject to a second federal environmental assessment.

Joe Foy, national campaign director for the WCWC, described the Taseko claim as a “SLAPP suit” (strategic lawsuit against public participation) designed to silence critics during a public comment period. The project is under federal review by the Environmental Assessment Agency.

“We view this as a way to frighten people off of making fair public comment,” Foy told Business in Vancouver. “We believe the information we’ve put out is not actionable, and we’re concerned that this is a kind of a SLAPP suit to make people fearful of public comments. SLAPP suits do have an effect.”

Foy said his organization stands behind its criticism of the project.

Defamation cases against Vancouver mining companies are not uncommon.

In 2010, Farallon Mining, an affiliate of Hunter Dickinson Inc. (Taseko is also an affiliate company of Hunter Dickinson), was awarded $425,000 after defamatory comments were made against Farallon on

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