Wild Border Watersheds

PROJECT: Red Chris

An open pit mine on Todagin Mountain, home to the world's largest lambing herd of Stone's Sheep

Photo Credit: Mike Fay

Overview

Project Map CEA Project Status BCEA Project Status

The Red Chris Mine is an open-pit copper-gold-silver mine, located 18 km southeast of Iskut, B.C., in the Iskut-Stikine watershed. The mine has been given a temporary discharge permit to begin releasing effluent into its tailings impoundment. If fully built, the mine would process over 30,000 tons of ore per day over a mine life of 28 years. Red Chris Development Company Ltd. (RSDC), a wholly owned subsidiary of Imperial Metals Corporation, owns a 100% interest in the project.

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The Red Chris mine has built a powerline extension to connect to the Northwest Transmission Line, which became operational in 2014.  The NTL extension did not require a new environmental assessment, and was exempted by the government from reviews that would normally be required to determine if it is necessary or if construction costs have been properly assessed. BC Hydro purchased the extension for $52 million.

Including the power line extension, mine construction is estimated to be at least $500 million. Ore concentrate would be trucked from the proposed mine to the deep-water port at Stewart, B.C., and shipped to an overseas smelter.

Impacts

The Red Chris mine threatens to devastate wildlife on Todagin Mountain, a sweeping high country plateau above the headwater lake chain of the Iskut River. The plateau is home to the largest lambing herd of Stone's Sheep in the world, along with wolves, grizzlies, caribou, black bears, wolverines, and golden eagles. Tailings waste from the proposed mine would be submerged in a tailings impoundment at the headwaters of the Iskut River, posing a significant threat to water quality and fish.

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Despite objections from the Tahltan First Nation, and a court challenge that went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, Red Chris received an Environmental Assessment Certificate. The Klabona Keepers continue to express serious concerns about the risks that the Red Chris mine poses to water quality and fish and wildlife habitat.

Draining the south side of Todagin is a Y-shaped valley containing Black Lake, Todagin Lake and Kluea Lake, a spawning ground for rainbow trout, which flows downstream into the Iskut River. Under the Fisheries Act of Canada, it's illegal to put harmful substances into fish-bearing waters. However, under Schedule Two of the mining effluent regulations, lakes can be redefined as "tailings impoundment areas." Imperial Metals would destroy Black Lake as part of its Tailings Impoundment Area, blocking much of the stream flow to Todagin and Kluea Lake, and creating long-term groundwater and downstream contamination concerns.

Despite the fact that Red Chris is owned by the same company that owns Mount Polley, which had a catastrophic tailings dam failure in August 2014, and despite the fact that Red Chris has a watered tailings dam design like that at Mount Polley, the use of which the independent expert panel recommended in January 2015 should be discontinued in the province, no major modifications have yet been made to the Red Chris tailings dam design as of February 2015. The BC government has granted an interim permit to Imperial Metals to begin filling its tailings impoundment during a “testing” period. Over the life of the mine, the Red Chris tailings impoundment would leave behind at least 300 million tons of acidic and non acidic mine waste which will pose a threat to downstream water quality - and likely require water treatment - in perpetuity.

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Red Chris Canadian Federal Environmental Assessment Process

PROPOSAL
SUBMITTED

CNSC or NEB is the Responsible Authority

CEA Agency is the Responsible Authority (45 days for screening)

No screening required. CEAA 2012 does not apply.

Regulatory EA process by CNSC or NEB
(public participation)

Public comments on whether an EA is required
(20 days)

Panel Review (2-yr limit). Public comments collected. "Interested parties" can participate in hearings

Standard Review
(1-year limit).
Public participation

Exempt from federal EA due to substitution or discretion

Exempt from CEAA 2012 due to equivalency

FEDERAL DECISION

Red Chris British Columbia Environmental Assessment Process

INITIAL PROPOSAL
SUBMITTED

Scope and
process for
review
determined by
EAO

Application
Information
Requirements
(30-day public
comment period)

APPLICATION
SUBMITTED

Application
evaluated for
completeness by
EAO

Application review
(Public comment
period)

Assessment report
prepared by EAO

DECISION BY
MINISTER

Pre-application: no time limit

Completion evaluation: 30 days

Application review: 180 days

Decision: 45 days