Red Chris tailings review pinpoints concerns

Imperial Metals has been given 22 recommendations for improving and monitoring the safety of their gold and copper mine north of Terrace

A 50-PAGE report done on the tailings pond design of the not-yet opened Red Chris gold and copper mine owned by Imperial Metals and located on Tahltan traditional territory outlines 22 recommendations that should be followed prior to the mine going into operation.

The report is the work of Klohn Crippen Berger, a firm chosen by the Tahltan Central Council but paid for by Imperial Metals.

Its commissioning followed a blockade of the location by a Tahltan activist group in August over fears there would be a repeat of the failure of the tailings pond at the Mount Polley mine in the Cariboo which is also owned by Imperial.

Both the central council and the provincial government have said the report and its conclusions are key to any final approvals being given to Imperial allowing it to open the $570 million Red Chris mine which is southeast of Dease Lake.

The report begins by saying that “any failure of the Red Chris impoundment will likely have a much more significant environmental impact than the Mount Polley failure.”

At the time the inspections for the report were completed, the Red Chris tailings facility was not fully built, and the report says that “a major design issue for the tailing impoundment is the high permeability of the foundation soils.”

One of the technical recommendations is to “design a drainage blanket” for safe discharge and to perform tests during the early stages of operation to prove that the design features are working. Another recommendation is to raise the crest of the dam in one area.

Most of the recommendations have to do with properly managing the tailings facility including monitoring procedures and protocol, response plan, implementation of a weather station, and forming a review board.

Two of the recommendations have to do with monitoring and analyzing the risk of a nearby landslide that is 300m from the rim of the tailings facility and which the report says is “poorly understood.”

Meanwhile, the Tahltan Central Council wants to join the court action in which Imperial is seeking an injunction preventing a Tahltan group knows as the Klabona Keepers from blocking access to the mine.

Set to be heard in Terrace beginning Nov. 25, central council president Chad Day has filed an affidavit saying only the central council can speak for matters of Tahltan rights and title and not the Klabona Keepers.

Day says, however, that the central council’s intervention should not be taken as an endorsement of the mine.