Business

Northern mines await Mount Polley probe

Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett visits steelworkers on the Northwest Transmission Line, which went into service this week. The line went $150 million over budget, but electrifies the region, connects a hydroelectric facility and enables operation of the Red Chris copper gold mine, set to open this fall. - B.C. government photo
Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett visits steelworkers on the Northwest Transmission Line, which went into service this week. The line went $150 million over budget, but electrifies the region, connects a hydroelectric facility and enables operation of the Red Chris copper gold mine, set to open this fall.
— image credit: B.C. government photo

The company developing the Morrison copper-gold mine near Smithers remains confident it can complete the project, despite a decision by the B.C. government to suspend its environmental assessment until an investigation into the Mount Polley mine dam breach is completed.

Pacific Booker Minerals "will comply with all the recommendations made by the independent engineering investigation and review panel and will construct and operate the Morrison mine in compliance with industry best practices, using proven technology and in full compliance with all permit requirements," company director Erik Tornquist said in a statement.

Environment Minister Mary Polak and Energy and Mines Minister announced the suspension this week. It's the second setback the province has handed to Pacific Booker, which won a court decision last December after its permit was refused by the B.C. government.

Bennett said the Morrison tailings pond was one of the issues in the court case, and he and Polak decided it was in the best interests of the public and the mine proponent to wait. The Lake Babine First Nation intervened in the case, and its land claim as well as concerns about long-term effects on water quality in Morrison Lake were cited in the decision to withhold the mine permit.

Three mine engineering experts have been given until Jan. 31 to report their findings on the cause of the Aug. 4 tailings dam breach at Mount Polley, a similar open-pit mine near Williams Lake.

Mount Polley owner Imperial Metals is nearing completion of its Red Chris project near Iskut in northwest of B.C. It has its permits except one for its tailings pond, and the company has agreed to another independent review of its design and construction before putting it into service.

A group of Tahltan Nation elders blocked a road to the Red Chris project after the Mount Polley incident, one of a series of title assertions in recent months.

"Red Chris should not be held up," Bennett said. "There is a roadblock there now and the company is currently working around it, and also having I think some pretty fruitful discussions with the Tahltan Central Council.

"But they're proceeding. Their mine is almost built, and they are hopeful that they will be able to provide the independent information or verification that the tailings dam at Red Chris is designed and built properly, such that the Tahltan Central Council will be satisfied they have the insurance and the mine will be able to proceed."

 

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