Taseko Mines Limited, based in Vancouver, challenged naysayers this week who are using a federal panel's review of the company's proposed gold-copper project in south-central British Columbia as reason not to support the plans.

Taseko says the mine's economic benefits far outweigh the potential harm to the environment.

The company's comments come a day after its shares plunged following a report that claimed the Prosperity Gold-Copper project would harm local fish habitat.

If approved by federal regulators, the mine will tap into 13.3 million ounces of gold and 5.3 billion pounds of copper.

But an independent review ordered by the federal environment minister recently found the project may have a significant adverse effect on local fish habitat. The mine's tailing pond would cover Fish Lake and nearby meadows and streams.

The Federal Review Panel also noted the cumulative effects of human activity on the local grizzly bear population.

The real issue is the removal of Fish Lake during the mining operation, Taseko President and Chief Executive Russell Hallbauer said.

But the potential economic and social benefits outweigh impacts to wildlife, the company said.

According to Taseko, the project would result in 2,000 direct and indirect jobs, more than $5 billion in combined revenues for the federal and provincial governments and $7 billion in spinoff consumer spending.

The provincial government has already approved the project, subject to certain conditions, despite reaching the same environmental conclusions as the federal review.

The BC government has accepted a Taseko proposal to build a new larger and deeper lake upstream in place of Fish Lake, executives said. It will also offer $15 million in compensation to fishery-related industries.

The panel found no significant adverse effects on air or water quality, vegetation, other wildlife or human health outside the pit area.

The federal government is expected to make its decision on whether to approve the mine by early October.

Taseko shares hit as low as $3.20 on the Toronto Stock Exchange Monday before rebounding slightly on Tuesday.