gavelPacific Booker Minerals (TSXV:BKM), a junior exploration company that challenged the Government of British Columbia over its rejection of the proposed Morrison copper-gold mine, has been vindicated in court. 

Pacific Booker released a statement earlier today saying that the BC government erred in its decision not to issue an environmental certificate to Pacific Booker in October of 2012. The order to reject the certificate, by then-minister of the environment Terry Lake, and Rich Coleman, then-minister of energy, mines and natural gas, came despite the final report by the BC Assessment Office saying that the proponent had satisfied concerns about fish habitat, water quality and First Nations consultation.

The ministers argued that Pacific Booker failed to meet a new “risk versus benefit” criteria, but the company argued in court that it was unfair to apply new criteria that was never part of its 10-year environmental assessment process.

“The petitioner is entitled to a declaration that the executive director’s referral of the application for a certificate to the ministers and the ministers’ decision refusing to issue the certificate failed to comport with the requirements of procedural fairness,” reads the judgment. “There will be an order in the nature of certiorari quashing and setting aside the ministers’ decision and an order remitting the petitioner’s application for a certificate to the ministers for reconsideration. The petitioner is entitled to costs.”

What that essentially means is that the government is now obliged to reconsider Pacific Booker’s application for an environmental certificate.

Pacific Booker CEO Erik Tornquist said the company is delighted with the decision.

“Obviously we’re very pleased because that’s exactly what we asked for in the petition,” said Tornquist, who was still digesting the 55-page decision.

“The argument the lawyers made was that the environmental assessment report was comprehensively inclusive and there were other factors and that the government acted unfairly in that they didn’t allow the company to respond to those other factors.” 

One of those factors, the government’s supposed risk versus benefit test, can no longer be used against Pacific Booker in its application because that would require changing the Environmental Assessment Act, a process that takes time and “not by somebody making a decision on a whim,” said Tornquist.

In a recent interview with the Globe and Mail regarding the Pacific Booker case, new environment minister Mary Polak said that minister Lake was “trying to find ways to better codify what people can expect in terms of risk assessments so there is not this feeling of uncertainty… That is now part and parcel of the review we are undertaking of the whole environmental assessment process.”

But Tornquist said the government would be ill-advised to try the risk vs benefit test with PBM again, after the company re-introduces its proposal for an environmental certificate: “I don’t think they would try that, do they want to go through this again?” he asked.

“It looks very bad for this to happen when the province said they are trying to promote economic development, opening new mines, training and job creation, etc.”

The BC government’s rejection of the Morrison mine does indeed appear to go against the spirit of the pro-development Liberal government, which touted job creation including the opening of new mines during its bid for re-election last May.

Campaigning throughout the province, Premier Christy Clark visited new mines and construction sites and earlier promised to open eight new mines by 2015. So far two have opened and five more are in construction or have permits, according to the Globe.

More to come…


Securities Disclosure: I, Andrew Topf, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article. 

Editorial Disclosure: Pacific Booker Minerals is an advertising client of the Investing News Network. This article is not paid-for content.