Miners hope to ease water fears

Tahltan worried about impacts of Red Chris mining project

THE OWNERS of a copper and gold mineral deposit north of here hope to convince the Tahltan First Nation that groundwater won’t be affected by its development.

Imperial Metals received a mines permit to allow construction of the Red Chris mine May 4 and the Tahltan Central Council issued a statement the same day in opposition.

Company representatives are to meet in Smithers today with technical representation from the Tahltan to go over water monitoring plans stemming from the mine’s development.

The water work shop is part of a larger plan to decide upon what degree of monitoring needs to take place and how often, said Byng Giraud from Imperial Metals.

“They’re not entirely satisfied with the water situation,” said Giraud last week. “We respect that.”

“We’ve committed to a water plan,” said Giraud, adding the Tahltan have requested a third party review of documents pertaining to the mine’s construction.

Red Chris is located approximately 500 kilometres north of Terrace. The property itself is southeast of Iskut, a mostly Tahltan village on Hwy37 North.

Imperial Metals says there’s enough ore at the site for a mine life of 28 years and has a construction budget of $450 million.

The mine is expected to employ 30 people and to be open by mid-2014, in time to be the first major customer to take power from BC Hydro’s Northwest Transmission Line which is now under construction.

Environmental approval has already been granted by the provincial and federal governments and Imperial has been working on getting permits, financing and a construction schedule in place.

As building the actual mine has yet to start, Giraud added that there’s still plenty of time to make sure those involved are satisfied with a water monitoring plan.

The Tahltan are worried about the effects of a tailings pond that’s part of the Red Chris open pit mine plan.

In the May 4 statement released the same date the mines permit was issued, Tahltan Central Council president Annita McPhee said the Tahltan have been pressing their point about groundwater pollution for years.

“Not everything has been done to address our concerns about long-term pollution to our water, and the damage to a landscape that our people have relied on to feed and support themselves since time immemorial.  We do not accept that it can proceed without having our concerns properly addressed,” she said.

For its part, the province says that a monitoring committee will be set up to keep an eye on Red Chris operations. The province and Imperial will have representatives on the committee as will the Tahltan.

Imperial owns 50 per cent of the Huckleberry mine near Houston and owns the Mount Polley copper mine in the Cariboo.