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Tories deny Taseko insider-trading allegation

The federal Conservatives have brushed off allegations that sensitive information about Taseko Mines Ltd. (TKO-T) was leaked weeks before Ottawa blocked the company's centrepiece gold and copper project due to environmental concerns.

The Opposition Liberals noted that Taseko shares dropped by as much as 32 per cent in a matter of hours one day last month. They charged that data had clearly been leaked about the Prosperity project In British Columbia.

Environment Minister John Baird dismissed the charge as “pure speculation,” telling the House of Commons today that a damning environmental assessment of the proposed mine was widely available at the time the shares plunged.

Ottawa said on Nov. 2 that it would block the Prosperity mine because of concerns about the damage it might cause to the pristine area where it would be located.

Nineteen days before that, Taseko shares plunged on the Toronto Stock Exchange for no apparent reason.

“The point here is, two weeks before the government decision was made public, clearly somebody had the information,” Mark Holland, the Liberal public safety and national security critic, said in an interview.

“When you see 10 times the normal trading volume happen in a matter of seconds and all kinds of market capitalization wiped out ... there's something afoot,'' Holland said.

The British Columbia Securities Commission said it is investigating the stock movement after a referral from the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada.

The Prosperity property, in a wilderness area about 125 kilometres southwest of Prince George, is said to hold major reserves of gold and copper.

Allegations of insider trading hurt the then-governing Liberals in the runup to the January 2006 federal election, when the RCMP announced in December 2005 an investigation into a possible leak of a government decision not to tax income trusts. The federal police subsequently exonerated the Liberal administration, but not until after the Conservatives had gained the lead in opinion polls and won the election.

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