It's back to the drawing board for round three for Taseko Mines, Ltd.

The New Prosperity gold and copper mine project near Fish Lake has been rejected once again by the federal Ministry of Environment, in the latest of a long back-and-forth between Taseko Mines Ltd. and the Canadian government.

Minister of Environment, Leona Agluqqak, has concluded the controversial project — which has been rejected once before — is likely to cause irreversible environmental damage. In a statement, the ministry said the project will not proceed.

An independent review panel found environmental damage to the Fish Lake water supply would be irreparable. This is the second proposal Taseko has put forward for the open pit mine, roughly 125 kilometres southwest of Williams Lake, B.C.

The mining giant has said it will reapply yet again.


The Tsilhqot'in National Government has strongly opposed Taseko's gold and copper mine project, saying the development will kill Fish Lake, preventing access to a place of spiritual importance. (CBC)

Both this reincarnation of the Taseko Mines proposal and a previous one were heavily supported by the B.C. Liberal government. Minister of Energy and Mines Bill Bennett has made two trips to Ottawa to lobby for the project.

Taseko Mines Ltd. launched a judicial review in 2013 alleging the federal panel reviewing the second proposal used the wrong information to conclude the mine would result in adverse environmental effects.

The project has faced vehement opposition from members of the Tsilhqot'in First Nation, who argue Fish Lake — considered sacred in their culture — would be damaged by the mine.

Taseko's first proposal was rejected by the Ministry of Environment in 2010 for environmental concerns. In that proposal, which received provincial approval, the mining firm proposed using the lake as a tailings pond.

Taseko then drafted a new environmental impact assessment, and re-submitted it to the Review Panel. The revised proposal for the $1.5 billion project included plans for conserving Fish Lake.

The company has estimated the New Prosperity mine would generate 550 direct jobs and $340 million in gross domestic product annually.

with files from the CBC's Luke Brocki and Stephen Smart