North of Terrace, B.C., Red Chris mine begins processing copper ore

The provincial environment ministry had granted Imperial Metals an effluent discharge permit in early February

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.

“The commissioning team continues to focus on achieving continuous operations and a consistent final concentrate grade. Once the team is satisfied with the progress in these areas, more emphasis will be placed on metal recoveries and throughput,” says the statement.

In light of the rupture of a huge Imperial-owned tailings facility at the Mount Polley mine near Williams Lake, all mining companies in the province have been required to review their tailings safety.

In the case of Red Chris, Imperial paid for a review by a company chosen by the Tahltan Central Council which has been negotiating an economic benefits agreement with the company.

The mine is located on Tahltan traditional territory.

The review of the Red Chris facility raised questions about whether it might have similar flaws as the one that failed at Mount Polley in the Cariboo last year, however, mines minister Bill Bennett has since stated that the two facilities are vastly different.