Imperial Metals has committed itself to paying for an independent third party review of its Red Chris copper mine tailings pond design, says provincial energy and mines minister Bill Bennett.
But how that might help lift a blockade of the Imperial Metals-owned mine, which is due to open early fall, by a faction of the Tahltan Nation isn’t yet known.
Bennett, who was in Terrace today to note the completion of BC Hydro’s Northwest Transmission Line, also went to Iskut to meet with blockade participants and the Tahltan Central Council, which speaks for the Tahltan Nation on resource development on Tahltan traditional territory.
The blockade went up Aug. 8 under the name of the Klabona Keepers, a group of Tahltan and others who have opposed mining and gas exploration in previous years.
This time they say the Aug. 4 breach of the tailings pond at the Mount Polley copper and gold mine in the Cariboo, also owned by Imperial Metals, has them worried about the safety of the Red Chris tailings pond.
The $500 million Red Chris mine is to open this fall, taking power from the just-finished Northwest Transmission Line.
Bennett is also to announce a province-wide review of all tailings ponds in the province later this week.
But the Red Chris review is to be more specific because it will involve the Tahltan Central Council leadership, he said.
Bennett said he won’t allow the Red Chris mine to open without the review first being satisfactory to the Tahltan leadership.
“Everyone seemed satisfied except for the few folk on the blockade,” said Bennett of the meeting he attended in Iskut, adding that there has always been some Tahltan who opposed the Red Chris development from the start.
The blockade has stopped work on the mine commissioning, a situation that’s affecting a number of Tahltan who have been hired at the location.
Whether the blockade is now to come down because of Imperial’s commitment to an independent review or if a review is done to the satisfaction of the Tahltan leadership isn’t known.
“None,” said Bennett when asked if there were any guarantees to remove the blockade.
He called the blockade a “delicate” situation.
“This is really an internal issue with the Tahltan Nation,” said Bennett.
“It’s not supported by the leadership of the Tahltan,” he added.