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Did you wrestle prosperity from the clenched fist of adversity?
Confusion has a significant adverse effect
The sell-off in Taseko shares began even before the findings of a federal review panel became public, and accelerated once the report noted some "significant adverse effects" relating to the project. However, as the company explained in a press release Monday -- and reinforced in a conference call Tuesday -- these findings substantially mirror those of the earlier environmental assessment conducted by the British Columbia provincial authorities that nonetheless resulted in the granting of key permits.
The notion that this mine presents a significant adverse effect upon fish and fish habitat in the Fish Creek watershed is nothing new. To mitigate the loss of Fish Lake and surrounding meadows under the proposed mine plan, Taseko would build a new lake just upstream. Taseko also remains bound to comply with 103 items presented by the provincial authorities as conditions for project approval.
To the clear frustration of Taseko's management, positive findings of the panel were notably overlooked in recent media reports. The report found no significant adverse effects to surface water quality, groundwater, terrain and soils, old growth forest, grassland ecosystems, air quality, or fish health in the Taseko River.
Furthermore, this particular federal review panel did not have a mandate to consider the economic impacts of the project as the provincial process did. When the Cabinet makes its crucial determination -- expected sometime in September or October -- it will weigh the substantial economic importance of this project alongside environmental considerations.
Some have compared the permitting challenges at Prosperity to Northgate Minerals' (AMEX: NXG ) Kemess North project -- a proposed gold mine in British Columbia that was denied a permit in 2008 -- but Kemess North carried substantially less economic heft than Prosperity.
Using data provided by the same firm that conducts economic modeling for some Canadian government agencies, Taseko estimates that Prosperity will produce billions of dollars of revenue for federal and provincial governments, create 60,000 person-years of employment, and spawn some C$7 billion in consumer spending.
Under the present economic reality, I believe that these considerations will carry substantial weight, and I therefore view concerns over the fate of the project and the related sell-off in Taseko shares as entirely overblown.
The world is watching
A climate of increasing scrutiny appears to be descending upon the global mining industry. Goldcorp (NYSE: GG ) is attempting to ward off attempts by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH) to suspend operations at the Marlin mine in Guatemala. New Gold's (AMEX: NGD ) Cerro San Pedro mine in Mexico faces possible revocation of its environmental permit. Appalachian coal miner Massey Energy (NYSE: MEE ) is certainly under a microscope following the disastrous mine explosion in April. As oil and chemical dispersants continue to poison the Gulf of Mexico, the environmental consequences of resource extraction are broadly on the public's mind.
In full view of a watchful mining industry, I fully anticipate that the Canadian government will grant a favorable conclusion to this particular 17-year permitting process. I have characterized British Columbia's provincial permitting process as a particularly stringent one, and I remain confident that undaunted shareholders will find prosperity in Prosperity.