Imperial Metals moves ahead with new mine in aftermath of tailings spill at Mount Polley Mine

August 12, 2014

Imperial Metals Corp. intends to move ahead with plans to start up its $520 million Red Chris Mine in British Columbia while also managing the aftermath of the tailings spill at its Mount Polley Mine, also in British Columbia.

The Financial Post reported that the Aug. 4 spill at the Mount Polley Mine released an estimated 10 million m3 (2.64 billion gal) of water and 4.5 million cubic meters of ore. The spill grabbed headlines and could lead to more regulation of mines through out Canada.

British Columbia’s Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett said that the spill will spur government across the country to re-examine mining policies.

However, Imperial Metals said it doesn’t see any sign that the accident will delay the startup of another mine it’s developing in the province.
British Columbia investigators are working with the company to find the cause of the breach, while local residents still can’t drink or bathe in water from the area, pending further tests.

The accident, the worst of its kind in Canada in at least two decades, may lead to more regulatory scrutiny of mines like Mount Polley, where waste is dumped into a lake or pond. British Columbia’s Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett said last week that the spill will spur government across the country to re- examine mining policies.

Imperial plans to start operations this year at its Red Chris Mine where, like Mount Polley, it will produce copper and gold and place waste in a pond at the site. The accident at Mount Polley is about 400 km (250 miles) northeast of Vancouver.

“It’s going to be human nature for people to think like that,” Steve Robertson, Imperial’s vice president of corporate affairs, said in an Aug. 9 interview at Mount Polley. “We haven’t received any indication from the government that there will be any change to our ability to go ahead and commission Red Chris.”

The Vancouver-based company plans to start production at Red Chris in late September. It has applied for, but not yet received, a permit to discharge waste from the open pit mine, Robertson said.

Imperial also hopes to sign an “impacts and benefits” agreement with Tahltan First Nation in relation to Red Chris, though operating the mine doesn’t hinge on an accord with the aboriginal group, Robertson said.

Investigations at or near the dam breach at Mount Polley are prohibited because of safety concerns, said Amec Plc, the engineering company that has been working on the dam. Construction work was being undertaken to complete Amec’s design for the dam at the time of the accident, Lauren Gallagher, a spokeswoman told The Financial Post.

The previous engineering contractor working on the dam, Knight Piesold Ltd., said it told both Imperial and the provincial government in 2011 that the mine-waste facility was “getting large” and should be managed properly to prevent future problems. Knight Piesold’s original engineering accommodated a significantly smaller volume of water compared with when the breach occurred, it said an Aug. 8 statement.

Robertson said the pond and dam were operating within the parameters of the original design at the time of the accident.

Water samples taken from Quesnel River and Quesnel Lake, which lie close to Mount Polley, have met with provincial and federal drinking-water guidelines for the third straight day, the government of British Columbia said yesterday in an update on its website.


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