The first of several mines being developed across the border from Southeast Alaska has received its final environmental permit. Some Alaskans are worried the Red Chris and other British Columbia mines will impact salmon in Southeast.
The Red Chris copper and gold mine got final approval last week to discharge wastewater in the Stikine River watershed.
The final permit was delayed because of extra scrutiny by a First Nations group and the B.C. government. It was the last environmental hurdle for the mine to jump before being guaranteed full use of its tailings storage facility.
The full opening of the Red Chris copper and gold mine north on Hwy37 North has been delayed once again with an original May start pushed back to mid-June because of continued scrutiny by the ministry of the environment in conjunction with the Tahltan First Nation environmental review board.
The ministry granted a three-month temporary permit in February for the initial testing of the mine, owned by Imperial Metals, with particular emphasis on scrutinizing the tailings facility in light of concerns from the dam failure at Imperial’s Mt. Polley mine in the Cariboo last summer.
That permit expired this month and now Imperial has received another temporary permit with the government saying it fully expects to grant the company the full permit soon.
Imperial Metals continues to bleed red ink as its main cash generator, the Mount Polley gold and copper mine, remains closed after a catastrophic failure last summer of its mine-waste dam.
The Vancouver-based mining company reported on Friday a loss in the first three months of 2015 of $33.4 million and revenues of $1.5 million.
Cash flow was negative, and dropped $26.4 million from the same three-month period in 2014.
“The decrease is primarily due to the absence of revenue from Mount Polley due to the suspension of mine operations,” Imperial Metals said in a news release announcing the first-quarter loss.
Imperial Metals is trying to get the go-ahead to restart the Mount Polley mine in the Central Interior, northeast of Williams Lake, and is awaiting a decision by the province, possibly in June.
Imperial Metals also expects to get increased cash flow from its recently-opened Red Chris gold and copper mine, but it had to cut back production in mid-April because of a shortage of clean water in its mine-waste storage facility.
Because of the production slowdowns at the new mine in northwestern B.C., it will take additional time to ramp up to full production, which means the company will not be able to meet a June 1, 2015 completion date for the mine, a requirement of banks holding some of the company’s debt.
B.C.’s push to develop mines in its shared watersheds with Alaska is under increasing scrutiny from the American side of the border.
Concerns over multiple proposed metal mines near the southeast Alaska border has drawn Alaska’s Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott — and a coterie of commercial fishing, conservation and First Nation groups — to British Columbia this week.
In a visit that coincides with mining week in B.C., Mallott will meet with B.C. Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett, Environment Minister Mary Polak, industry representatives and First Nation leaders.
The Alaskan fishing, conservation and aboriginal representatives are in B.C. to build alliances in their push for more scrutiny of the potential effects on Alaska waters that support a multi-billion-dollar fishery.
They believe that B.C.’s review process is not adequate and want Alaska to have a seat at a table, potentially through an international joint commission, to examine potential cumulative effects on water and salmon. The groups are also concerned about compensation if there is a disaster.
Dozens of Canadian and American environmental groups, First Nations and businesses, as well as scientists and individuals, have called on the B.C. government to end the use of storing mine waste under water and behind earth-and-rock dams.
But Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett said that is not going to happen in British Columbia. “I don’t think that’s in the cards for B.C. — or any other province in Canada — to adopt a policy where all you can use to manage tailings is dry-stack tailings,” Bennett said in an interview.
The demand from the U.S. and Canadian groups — sent in a letter Tuesday to Bennett and B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak — came as a result of Imperial Metals’ Mount Polley tailings dam failure last summer.
Monty Bassett, Documentary Filmmaker, 250-877-0961 or 250-847-5605
Chris Zimmer, Rivers Without Borders, 907-586-2166 or 907-988-8173, Zimmer@riverswithoutborders.org
Wade Davis, BC Leadership Chair in Cultures and Ecosystems at Risk, Professor of Anthropology, University of British Columbia, firstname.lastname@example.org
Diverse group of Alaska Tribes, members of First Nations, businesses, organizations, scientists and individuals calls for end to wet mine tailings storage in B.C.
Today a large and diverse group of Canadians and Americans called on the British Columbia (B.C.) government to halt the permitting of wet tailings facilities for new and proposed mines in B.C. based on the Independent Expert Panel recommendations on the Mount Polley mine tailings disaster. Eighty-seven Alaska Native tribes, members of B.C. First Nations, businesses, prominent individuals, scientists, and conservation groups signed a letter to the B.C. government calling for a shift to newer and safer dry tailings storage technology.
“Wet tailings impoundments are an unacceptable financial and environmental liability now and for future generations,” said letter organizer Monty Bassett. “A failure by the B.C. government to stop further construction of wet tailings storage facilities would be a blatant disregard for safety and its own commitments to adopt Best Available Technologies and Practices. Dry stack is a proven tailings technology. Mining industry complaints about costs fly in the face of the Mount Polley report recommendation that costs should not trump safety.”
These concerns are based on recommendations by the Independent Expert Engineering Investigation and Review Panel, which released a report on the Mount Polley tailings failure in January 2015. The report found that unless significant changes are made in the way B.C. tailings dams are designed and maintained, more failures can be expected. The report’s principal recommendation calls for an end to outdated “hundred year old” wet tailings storage and conversion to “dry stack” tailings systems. According to page 120 of the report, “Improving technology to ensure against failures requires eliminating water both on and in the tailings: water on the surface, and water contained in the interparticle voids. Only this can provide the kind of failsafe redundancy that prevents releases no matter what.”
“We cannot afford another Mount Polley, especially at mines like Red Chris or the proposed Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell (KSM), which are much bigger and will have more toxic acidic tailings,” said Chris Zimmer of Rivers Without Borders. “Unless there are major changes to B.C. tailings storage, we will soon see more dangerous dams built across B.C. and in the headwaters of major transboundary salmon rivers such as the Stikine, Taku and Unuk. These tailings dumps will be toxic time bombs poised upstream of vital salmon habitat.”
Despite the Mount Polley report’s recommendations, just days after the Panel released its report, B.C.’s Ministry of Energy and Mines issued an “interim operating” permit for a wet-tailings facility at the Red Chris mine in northwestern B.C., in the headwaters of the transboundary, salmon-rich Stikine River. The interim permit expires May 4, 2015. The Red Chris facility, also owned by Imperial Metals, is similar to the one that failed at Imperial Metal’s Mount Polley mine in August, releasing almost 25 million cubic meters (6.6 billion gallons) of mine waste water and tailings into the Fraser River watershed.
“It is reckless for B.C. to permit the kind of outdated watered tailings facility at Red Chris that failed at Mount Polley and that the expert panel specifically recommends against,” said Zimmer. “The panel called Mount Polley a ‘loaded gun’ and B.C. is loading the chamber at Red Chris.”
According to an independent expert report commissioned by Imperial Metals, “any failure of the Red Chris impoundment will likely have a much more significant environmental impact than the Mount Polley failure.” This is also true of other mines such as KSM. The proposed KSM tailings facility is roughly six times that of Mount Polley’s.
“We know that a dam failure at mines like Red Chris or KSM could have far worse consequences than Mount Polley, yet the B.C. government and the mining industry are avoiding the one thing that could reduce the risk of such a failure,” said Zimmer. “The costs of such failures to downstream communities could dwarf the costs of implementing changes now.”
The lessons of Mount Polley show that tailings failures are very difficult and expensive to clean up, there are no insurance policies for tailings dams, mine company bonding doesn’t pay for accidents or disasters, and there are no clear mechanisms to compensate injured parties. Industry often can’t pay, which means either B.C. taxpayers end up paying for substantial environmental liabilities, or cleanup and compensation doesn’t happen.
“What we are saying is to do Red Chris right,” said author Wade Davis, who owns a lodge at the base of Mount Todagin where Red Chris is situated. “In the wake of Mount Polley, how can we trust wet tailings storage? Can we not expect the safest mine technology possible from Imperial Metals?”
The letter was sent to Bill Bennett, Minister of Energy and Mines; Mary Polak, Minister of Environment; Al Hoffman, Chief Inspector of Mines; Diane Howe, Deputy Chief Inspector of Mines; Norm MacDonald, MLA, Opposition Critic for Energy and Mines; and Doug Donaldson, MLA, Stikine.
Imperial Metals Corp., owner of the mine that caused Canada's worst mining disaster in history, has started limited production at an even bigger mine, which could be a threat to Alaska's $2-billion annual salmon and tourism business.
Meanwhile, Imperial has applied for a temporary restart of Mount Polley Mine, where a tailings storage pond failed in August 2014, spewing 4.3 billion gallons of water and 10.3 million cu yd of mine tailings and construction waste into two lakes and a creek that are part of the Fraser River watershed in British Columbia.
The Mount Polley spillage affected Quesnel Lake—a fjord-type lake in which salmon spawn—dumping chromium, cobalt, copper, iron, silver, vanadium and zinc. Hazeltine Creek, between Polley Lake and Quesnel Lake, got those same minerals as well as arsenic, manganese, mercury, nickel, thallium and titanium.
However, the other British Columbia mines—under construction, in startup or still undergoing assessment—pose a greater threat: acids that are common in copper and gold mining and other metals toxic to aquatic life.
The effects from Mount Polley "may take years to be felt by salmon," thanks to the metals bound to sediment settling in the lake bottom, says Aaron Hill, executive director of Watershed Watch Salmon Society. The greater danger, he says, is with the other mines.
"Even though Mount Polley was one of the biggest environmental disasters in Canadian history, the impact would be much worse from a catastrophic failure at a project like Red Chris and KSM [Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell] that are acid- draining, with much larger tailings impoundments," he says.
"KSM, which was quietly approved by the federal government over the Christmas holiday, would have two tailings impoundments around the same size as Hoover Dam," he adds.
Tahltan Nation members are preparing for a vote that will determine if and how the nation will be involved with a mine in its traditional territory.
A referendum is scheduled next month for ratification of a co-management agreement between the Tahltan Central Council, Tahltan Band, Iskut Band, and the Red Chris Development Company related to the Red Chris mine.
The Red Chris mine north of here up Hwy37 North is making the most of a temporary environmental permit and has begun both processing and shipping copper concentrate out the Port of Stewart.
“The mill processed just over 193,000 tonnes in February producing approximately 2,400 tonnes of copper concentrate,” says a release on mine owner Imperial Metals’ website last week.
The provincial environment ministry had granted Imperial an effluent discharge permit in early February, a three month permit expiring in May that allows the mine to operate its ore-grinding mill while testing the tailings facility.
The company is required to show that the tailings facility is holding up before getting the final permit.
The company release says it is processing the ore slowly to begin with but did not mention testing the tailings facility.
British Columbia officials, who have granted Imperil Metals an interim permit for a new tailings facility at the Red Chris copper/gold prospect, said Feb. 24 that the company would have to prove the tailings facility performs to design specifications.
Once Imperil Metals has met that criteria to the satisfaction of Chief Inspector of Mines Al Hoffman, the mine would be issued an approval to continue to operate its North Tailings dam facility only, and it will be contingent on the company being able to construct the additional lifts as required by the design engineers, said David Haslam, a spokesman for the provincial Ministry of Energy and Mines.
Haslam also said, in an email response to specific questions regarding the interim permit, that since the current approval expires in May, the company must provide this information for a decision before then.
(To read complete source article, click "The Cordova Times")
The British Columbia (B.C.) government’s decision to grant Imperial Metals an interim permit for the tailings facility at the Red Chris mine only three days after an independent review panel of the Mount Polley dam failure specifically recommended against this type of tailings technology is raising doubts about the provincial government’s commitment to implement all the mining reforms in the Mount Polley panel report. The Red Chris facility is similar to the one that failed at the Mount Polley mine in August, releasing almost 25 million cubic meters (6.6 billion gallons) of mine waste water and tailings into the Fraser River watershed.
“B.C. appears to be rushing Red Chris, which contradicts its own promises to implement all the recommendations of the Mount Polley expert panel,” said Chris Zimmer, Alaska Campaign Director for Rivers Without Borders. “It is reckless for B.C. to permit the kind of outdated watered tailings facility at Red Chris that failed at Mount Polley and that the panel specifically recommends against. The panel called Mount Polley a ‘loaded gun’ and B.C. has just loaded a round into the chamber at Red Chris.”
In the wake of the release of an independent expert engineering investigation and review into the Mount Polley mine disaster in British Columbia, a watershed-based conservation group is voicing concerns over approval of a new permit for another BC mine.
Chris Zimmer, Alaska campaign director for Rivers Without Borders, says he questions the provincial government’s decision to grant Imperil Metals, of Vancouver, BC an interim permit for filling and testing its watered tailings facility at the Red Chris Mine, a copper and gold property in Northwest BC. That tailings facility is similar to the one at Mount Polley, which the independent report recommends against, he said.
The lengthy Mount Polley report predicts more dam failures if reforms are not implemented. Specifically, on Page 118 of the report, reviewers said “if the inventory of active tailings dams in the province remains unchanged, and performance in the future reflects that in the past, then on average there will be two failures every 10 years and six every 30. In the face of these prospects, the Panel firmly rejects any motion that business as usual can continue.”
The Red Chris mine sits above the nine lakes of the headwaters of the Iskut River in the Iskut-Stikine watershed, a major salmon producer in the transboundary region.
The United Tribal Transboundary Working Group, a coalition of many of Southeast Alaska’s tribes, issued a press release earlier this week saying they were “outraged” by Imperial Metals, the owner of Mount Polley mine, opening the Red Chris in the Stikine River watershed just days after the Mount Polley review panel released a report calling for change in British Columbia’s tailings dams.
“The customs, traditions and way of life of Southeast Alaska’s first people exist in large part because of our waters. Large-scale mines upstream from our communities pose a threat that would change how we define ourselves and how we live our lives. The Mount Polley mine tailings dam breach last August in central British Columbia (B.C.) is a prime example of how our lives could be changed forever by mining disasters,” the group wrote.
Tahltan Nation president Chad Day says that in keeping with an agreement signed between it and Imperial Metals last August the council has granted permission for the company to begin releasing effluent into its tailings pond.
“Although our Nation still has some questions about the Red Chris mine, we also know that the mine is almost ready to open,” said a statement from Day....
... The third party review from October 2014 noted loose glacial deposits under the tailings facility that needed to be studied to verify its stability.
A government review of the Mount Polley mine released earlier this month noted glacial till causing the breach of that tailings facility wall.
The recommendations called for the modifications of the tailing impoundment wall in one area as well as installing a drainage blanket however the mines ministry said last week that no major modifications had been made to the design.
AMID controversy surrounding the Mount Polley mine dam failure report released last Friday, mine owner Imperial Metals has been successful in receiving a permit to begin filling a tailings facility at its Red Chris gold and copper project northeast of Terrace.
“Red Chris has received an interim approval to operate the TSF (Tailings Storage Facility) in order to test the mill but not to go into production,” said a statement from the Ministry of Energy and Mines.
The permit is effective from February through May, after which Red Chris “will have to apply to the Chief Inspector [of Mines] for approval and will have to show that the TSF has performed as designed.”
Initial operations of the mine, which was scheduled to go into service last year, were on hold as the company financed a third party review of the tailings facility using a company chosen by the Tahltan Central Council which acts as the governing voice on Tahltan traditional territory.
Police executed search warrants at the Mount Polley mine on Tuesday on behalf of the B.C. Conservation Officer Service, one of the agencies still investigating the tailings dam disaster.
At the same time that Imperial Metals, the owner of the mine, was marking the start of operations at its new Red Chris mine in northern B.C....
... Operations at the Red Chris mine began Tuesday without the usual ribbon-cutting that a new mine typically attracts. Against the backdrop of the Mount Polley tailings dam disaster, Imperial Mines is moving tentatively to bring online the new project – one that is critical to helping the company pay its substantial environmental cleanup costs.
(To read complete source article, click "The Globe and Mail")
A provincial government report that found the tailings pond dam at Mount Polley collapsed because it was built on a weak foundation has heightened concerns in Alaska about British Columbia’s mine safety standards.
Commercial fishermen, native organizations and the mayors of two Alaska communities say they are worried the Red Chris mine, now being built in northern British Columbia by the same company that owns Mount Polley, poses a similar risk.
(To read complete source article, click "The Globe and Mail")
The opening of the Imperial Metals Red Chris copper and gold mine has been delayed until the new year as the company continues to seek a final provincial environmental permit and negotiates with the Tahltan Central Council over recommendations contained in a review of the facility’s tailings pond.
While TV cameras focused their lenses on the 100-plus arrests on Burnaby Mountain last month, at the same time, a very similar Kinder-Morgan-style drama was playing out in a remote alpine area of northwest B.C. known as the Sacred Headwaters.
That’s where Tahltan First Nations Elders called the Klabona Keepers, who are self-proclaimed guardians of that pristine wilderness, were hit in late November with a court order granted to Imperial Metals. The injunction forbids the mine opponents from continuing to interfere with the $600-million Red Chris copper and gold mine that intends operate for 30 years.
But rallying to raise money for the Elders' legal defence is David Suzuki’s grandson, Tamo Campos – who came to recent public attention after his arrest on Burnaby Mountain. The young man is also quickly gaining a reputation for the same oratory skills of his famous grandfather.
Red Chris mine owner Imperial Metals has been granted an injunction preventing a Tahltan group known as the Klabona Keepers from blocking access to the property north on Hwy37 North near Iskut.
The injunction, granted by Mr. Justice Robert Punnett of the B.C. Supreme Court this afternoon following a two-day hearing, prevents the activist group from blocking access to the mine until another claim against the Klabona Keepers is resolved in which Red Chris is seeking damages.
The injunction means that an enforcement order can be sought by the RCMP if access to the Red Chris gold and copper mine is impeded by the protesters.
An independent review of Imperial Metals’ Red Chris mine tailings dam design demanded by the Tahltan First Nation after the Mount Polley collapse has identified concerns.
The Klohn Crippen Berger review — paid for by Imperial Metals — found that the design is feasible if constructed properly.
However, a major design issue is the “high permeability” of the soils the two major earthen dams will be built on, which means if a fine-grained “tailings blanket” does not stop seepage, it could cause stability problems and allow significant water to leak from the storage facility, according to the review obtained by The Vancouver Sun.
KCB is recommending that during early stages of building the tailings storage facility that Imperial Metals’ designers need to monitor the water balance carefully “to prove their design concept.”
In making 22 recommendations, KCB noted that “any failure of the Red Chris impoundment will likely have a much more significant environmental impact than the Mount Polley failure.”
A group of Tahltan and others who had been blocking access to the nearly-completed Red Chris copper mine owned by Imperial Metals have, for now, stopped their action.
The decision earlier this week followed the granting to Imperial Metals of an interim junction to stop the blockade and, as of Oct. 14, an enforcement order which could have resulted in the arrest of people at the blockade.
“When 15 of our elders were arrested in 2005 to protect the Tl’abane [Klappan area] it had huge impacts on our community. Although we were willing to make this sacrifice again, to protect our elders and children from this trauma, we’ve decided to not be arrested,” the Tahltan group known as the Klabona Keepers said in an Oct. 14 statement.
“Instead, we will fight the injunction in court and are calling on Imperial Metals and government to come meet with us to discuss the matter under our own jurisdiction.”
Imperial Metals has been granted a temporary court injunction against a group of Tahltan and others who are blocking access to the company's nearly-completed Red Chris copper mine in northwestern B.C.
The enforcement order part of the injunction is to take effect Oct. 14.
The company was in Vancouver Supreme Court today arguing its case that the blockade is preventing workers and supplies from getting to the site.
The interim injunction could clear the way for police to arrest the blockaders who consist of a Tahltan group calling itself the Klabona Keepers, members of the Secwepemc First Nation, and other environmental activists. The blockade has been up since Sept. 29.
The Secwepemc First Nation has the Mount Polley copper mine, also owned by Imperial Metals, within its territory and it was the Aug. 4 failure of that mine's tailings pond which is driving the blockade at Red Chris.
Blockaders say they don't have confidence in the Red Chris tailings pond design.
The Klabona Keepers say they are accepting their imminent arrests if a court application is granted for an injunction to order the group to take down its blockade at the access road to the Red Chris mine up north.
In a message sent from the Tahltan blockade of the Red Chris mine access road from Tamo Campos – a representative of the activist group Beyond Boarding working with the Klabona Keepers, a faction of the Tahltan Nation – supporters were informed about the court injunction and what they could do before it takes place.
“Currently, we are waiting to find out today or within the next week if/when the court injunction will be served,” said the message late last week.
“From then, we should have 24 hours before arrests will be made.”
On Friday, Imperial Metals, the company responsible for Canada’s largest-ever mining waste spill, served an injunction application to indigenous protesters blocking roads to its Red Chris copper and gold mine near Iskut, British Columbia.
A group of Tahltan First Nation elders known as the Klabona Keepers have blocked access to the mine for the second time in two months over concerns that Red Chris is too similar to Mount Polley, a sister mine that spewed 24 million cubic meters of toxic sludge and wastewater into one of the province’s biggest salmon spawning lakes on August 4.
A mining company being blockaded by a group of Tahltan has taken its next step in the conflict, according to protestors blockading the Red Chris Mine.
On October 3, 2014, Imperial Metals requested an injunction notice to remove the Klabona Keepers elders and supporters from blockading the road to the Red Chris mine in Tahltan territory, said a press release from the Keepers the evening of Oct. 3.
Once the court injunction is served, the elders and supporters will have 24 hours to leave the area or they will face arrest, continued the release.
A group of First Nations protestors has set up a blockade at the access to Imperial Metals' Red Chris mine.
The mine, which is scheduled to open this year, has raised concern because the design of its earthen-damed tailings pond is the same as the one at the Mount Polley mine near Williams Lake, also operated by Imperial, which broke open under pressure in August, spilling toxic material and sediment into nearby lakes.
The Red Chris mine is located about 80 kilometres south of Dease Lake on Tahltan territory and is focused on gold and copper extraction.
The highest levels of corporate integrity and responsibility should be the standard for any new mine in Canada, and especially for one with as much potential as Imperial Metals' Red Chris project, situated at the heart of the Sacred Headwaters in remote northwestern British Columbia. Imperial Metals has acknowledged that all exploration, regulation and construction costs will be reclaimed within two years of the mine's anticipated three decades of active production.
If true this immense and certain profitability ought to allow both the company and the government to push the limits of excellence on every front, assuring the public at every step in the process that costs and/or expediency will never deflect them from their goal of building an exemplary mine. It is in the interests of all of the mining industry and both federal and provincial governments that such high standards be set for Red Chris. Civic and corporate responsibility aside, self-interest alone would suggest that Imperial ought to build a great mine.
Consider the optics of Imperial's immediate dilemma....
(To read the complete source article, click "The Tyee")
Imperial Metals (TSX:III) announced August 26 that it has entered into an agreement with the Tahltan Central Council (TCC) over the Red Chris mine project.
The arrangement will see a detailed independent engineering review of the tailings impoundment at the mine to make sure it meets world-class standards in terms of design, engineering, operation and construction.
The third-party reviewer will be chosen by the TCC. If any material issues are discovered, Imperial has agreed to address them in a way that is satisfactory to the First Nations group.
Imperial Metals Corporation is facing fresh scrutiny of its other major mines across British Columbia in the wake of the Mount Polley dam breach.
Last Monday, the impoundment dam near Likely, B.C. collapsed, dumping 14.5 million cubic metres of tailings into the watershed. Reports have since revealed the firm was warned about dam safety and dangerous tailings levels by employees, their union, government inspectors and consultants.
Now, sources allege that at two other Imperial projects -- Red Chris and Huckleberry mines -- the company cut corners on safety to save money.
And Wednesday the B.C. government announced the opening of Red Chris would be delayed until an investigation of its safety is completed by First Nations who live in the area.
(To read complete sourc article, click "The Tyee")
Imperial Metals is facing pressure from First Nations to halt its other projects in the aftermath of the Mount Polley mine collapse in central B.C. last week.
The Neskonlith are set to issue a hand-delivered eviction notice to the company Thursday over the development of the Ruddock Creek zinc and lead mine on their traditional territory in the Thompson-Okanagan.
And some members of the Tahltan Nation in northwestern B.C. have called for a halt to construction at Imperial’s $500-million Red Chris copper and gold mine. The members of the Tahltan, which include elder’s group the Klabona Keepers, want an independent review of the tailings pond and dam. They say they have been blockading a road into the mine site, but it is not clear what effect that has had on construction.
(To read complete source article, click "The Vancouver Sun")
Imperial Metals' Red Chris copper-gold mine in northwestern B.C. won't be allowed to open until an independent review of the company's construction work on the new project has been completed, Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett said Wednesday.
TATOGGA LAKE -- The ongoing blockade of Red Chris mine in Iskut, B.C., was planned last Thursday at a twilight meeting of the Kablona Keepers -- a group of Tahltan elders and families who live in the area, near the headwaters of the Stikine, Nass and Skeena rivers.
By meeting's end, a decision had been reached to try and halt operations at Red Chris by cutting off the operation's supply corridors.
The recent tailings pond breach at another Imperial Metals operated mine, Mount Polley, had been the last straw for the Tahltan, who feared a similar disaster might strike their territory. Red Chris is a $500-million gold and copper mine on the Tahltan's traditional territory that produces toxic tailing stored in a constructed pond much like the one that disastrously collapsed a week ago near Likely, B.C.
(To read complete source article, click "The Tyee")
Imperial Metals Corp. (III), the owner of a British Columbia mine where a burst dam unleashed a torrent of mine waste last week, said it doesn’t see any sign that the accident will delay the startup of another mine it’s developing in the province.
Imperial is trying to stem the leak from a pond at its Mount Polley mine after the Aug. 4 spill that released an estimated 10 million cubic meters (2.64 billion gallons) of water and 4.5 million cubic meters of ground-up rock. 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.
A group of Tahltan elders have set up a blockade of Imperial Metals' Red Chris Mine.
The action by the Klabona Keepers is in response to the Mount Polley Mine tailings pond breach that leaked mining waste into Hazeltine Creek and into Quesnel Lake near the town of Likely, B.C. Aug. 5, resulting in a drinking water ban and state of emergency in that area.
Imperial Metals owns the Mount Polley Mine. The company's Red Chris Mine, a gold-copper mine in development and slated to open this year, is located about 80 kilometres south of Dease Lake on Tahltan territory.
“In response to the Mount Polley Mine tailings disaster and our serious concerns over the pending Imperial Metals' Red Chris Mine, the Klabona Keepers from the Tahltan Nation will blockade the Red Chris property Friday Aug 8, 2014 at 1 p.m. Pacific time,” said the release put out by the Klabona Keepers in the morning of Aug. 8.
The blow that the Mount Polley mine tailings-pond collapse has dealt to the confidence of B.C. First Nations in mine safety may be the biggest challenge facing the industry following the incident. Mine owner Imperial Metals Corp. experienced an immediate financial hit — its share price plummeted about 40 per cent on news of the failure and of the mine’s indefinite closure, slashing the market value of the company to $760 million from $1.26 billion before the spill.
Mining is a key pillar of Premier Christy Clark’s economic platform, and one new mine slated to be opened later this year is Imperial’s $500-million Red Chris copper-gold mine in B.C.’s remote northwest.
But a statement posted on the website of the region’s Tahltan Central Council late Wednesday suggested Imperial could also be facing trouble on the Red Chris front as a result of the Mount Polley situation.
The online message from Tahltan Central Council president Chad Day states that Red Chris does not have all necessary permits to open, and that an impacts-and-benefits agreement with the Tahltan First Nation has yet to be signed.
Ten million gallons of water released when a tailings pond dam for the Mount Polley mine collapsed should not pose a danger to people or fish, Brian Kynoch, CEO for Imperial Metals Corp. (TSX:III), said at a press conference this afternoon (August 5).
In fact, the worst damage may be to Imperial’s reputation and bottom line - not to mention its stock price, which was down 40.6% on the day to $9.98.
The failure of the tailings pond shut down the company’s most productive mine for an indefinite period and one mining analyst suggested that it could also delay the commissioning of Imperial’s new Red Chris mine.
The Ministry of Environment estimates the dam’s failure released 10 million cubic metres of water (enough to fill 4,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools) and 4.5 million cubic metres of sand into Polley and Quesnel lakes.
Raymond Goldie, an analyst with Salman Partners, likened the incident to a similar one in 1998, when the tailings pond for a mine owned by Boliden in Spain was breached. He said an investigation to determine the cause took eight months.
“I’m sure there’ll be the same thing here, and I find it difficult to imagine Red Chris being allowed to start up before the government assured itself what the cause was of Mount Polley and also assured itself that this wouldn’t happen to Red Chris,” Goldie told Business in Vancouver.
“I think it could delay Red Chris by as much as a year.”
Shares of Imperial Metal Corp. dropped sharply in heavy trading Tuesday morning, the first day of trading after news breaking about a breach of the tailings dam at its Mount Polley copper and gold mine that sent an estimated 14-million cubic metres of effluent and mine waste down stream into Hazeltine Creek in the Cariboo region of interior British Columbia....
... In addition to Mount Polley, Imperial Metals operates the Huckleberry mine near Houston in B.C.'s central interior and is in the late stages of building the Red Chris copper gold mine in the province's far north west.
The Tahltan First Nation appears close to supporting the Red Chris Mine in northwestern British Columbia.
“The Tahltan are not opposed to Red Chris, Tahltan Central Council president Annita McPhee said in a written statement. “In fact they are working toward an agreement on that mine and we hope to have an announcement within the next couple of weeks."
Tahltan was previously against the copper/gold project led by Imperial Metals.
More work needed to understand potential impacts of waste storage, industry-funded review finds.
By Christopher Pollon, 4 Jul 2013, TheTyee.ca
More work is required before anyone knows how an estimated 300-million tonnes of tailings from the proposed Red Chris mine will eventually affect water in the upper Stikine watershed of northwest B.C., concludes a confidential industry-funded review acquired by The Tyee.
The report, paid for by mine owner Imperial Metals at the urging of the Tahltan Nation, recommends a comprehensive field investigation including additional drilling, groundwater collection and monitoring wells be undertaken as a way of addressing existing information gaps.
(To read the complete source article, click "The Tyee")
National Geographic explorer-in-residence Mike Fay has travelled to places most of us can only dream of. So it’s no small compliment when he says the wilderness of northwestern B.C. is as good as anything on the planet. Having spent thousands of hours conducting aerial research and travelled thousands of kilometres on foot over the past 40 years, he states: “The land in northwestern B.C. is without a doubt probably the most stunning landscape that anyone could ever see. It is so immense and so incredibly intact and incredibly rich. It blows you away…it really blows your mind.”
CBC News has learned that 16 Canadian lakes are slated to be officially but quietly "reclassified" as toxic dump sites for mines. The lakes include prime wilderness fishing lakes from B.C. to Newfoundland.
Environmentalists say the process amounts to a "hidden subsidy" to mining companies, allowing them to get around laws against the destruction of fish habitat.
Under the Fisheries Act, it's illegal to put harmful substances into fish-bearing waters. But, under a little-known subsection known as Schedule Two of the mining effluent regulations, federal bureaucrats can redefine lakes as "tailings impoundment areas."
That means mining companies don't need to build containment ponds for toxic mine tailings.
CBC News visited two examples of Schedule Two lakes. In Newfoundland and Labrador, the Vale Inco company wants to use a prime destination for fishermen known as Sandy Pond to hold tailings from a nickel processing plant.
In northern B.C., Imperial Metals plans to enclose a remote watershed valley to hold tailings from a gold and copper mine. The valley lies in what the native Tahltan people call the "Sacred Headwaters" of three major salmon rivers. It also serves as spawning grounds for the rainbow trout of Kluela Lake, which is downstream from the dump site.