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.
“A temporary discharge authorization has been issued which extends the discharge to June 15, 2015,” said environment ministry official David Karn. “This additional time allows for the review by the Ministry and Tahltan of the submissions received by Imperial Metals over the last month.”
The government and Tahltan entered a co-management partnership recently and the commissioning of the tailings facility hinges on Imperial showing it has a system of oversight in place and that the tailings facility is sound and would not suffer the same fate as the Mount Polley dam which ruptured last summer near Quesnel lake in central BC.
“The tailings storage facility during this interim period has performed as designed,” said an environment ministry statement. “The company is expected to request an approval to move into full production in the coming weeks.”
The Tahltan Central Council, which is the overall governing body of the Tahltan, has members with environmental certification on an environmental working group at Red Chris.
This was one of the conditions in the co-management agreement, which also assured that there would be regular reporting of activities related to the disposal of effluent above and beyond the standard reporting system through the government.
As Imperial awaits the final environmental permitting for the Red Chris mine, it is financing its operation through a $80 million loan according to a recent press release on its website. This is helping them to recommission the Mount Polley mine and to extend the deadline for the Red Chris opening.
The government maintains that the earthen dam at Red Chris is designed differently than the one that breached at Mount Polley spilling a hazardous concoction of chemicals into Quesnel Lake.
The ministry of the environment is represented on the Red Chris Monitoring Committee formed to monitor the mine, as are Tahltan and mine staff.
Red Chris began shipping its first ore earlier in April and the ministry says the temporary permit allows for such action.
“The short term authorization was for the deposition of tailings in the impoundment, and there is no limitation on the shipping of concentrate produced during the commissioning of the mill. Additional surface water and groundwater monitoring has been in place, as well as oversight by a third party environmental monitor. The results of water monitoring and the findings of the environmental monitor have been reported to the Red Chris Monitoring Committee,” said the ministry statement.