The Tahltan Central Council has yet to decide if it’ll accept a proposal to have an independent third party conduct a review of the tailings pond design for the almost-completed Red Chris copper mine.
The offer was made by mine owner Imperial Metals last week in response to a blockade by a faction of the Tahltan Nation of the $631 million development which is located on Tahltan traditional territory south of Dease Lake.
Provincial mines minister Bill Bennett, who met with Tahltan Central Council leaders and other Tahltan last week, said Imperial Metals has agreed to pay for the study and that the central council can choose who will conduct it.
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 Aug. 13, adding that there has always been some Tahltan who opposed the Red Chris development from the start.
The blockade went up Aug. 8, chiefly under the sponsorship of a group called the Klabona Keepers which, in the past, has opposed other mining development and drilling for methane gas in the Klappan area considered culturally important to Tahltan people.
Those on the blockade said they were worried about the Red Chris tailings pond in light of the failure of the one at the Mount Polley copper and gold mine in the Cariboo which is also owned by Imperial Metals.
The Tahltan Central Council has said it does not endorse the blockade.
And in an Aug. 14 statement, the council said it will be speaking with Tahltan members.
“Before making any decisions regarding the proposed Red Chris Mine, and to ensure that new questions and concerns about the proposed mine are thoroughly addressed, the Tahltan Central Council will be carefully considering all aspects of what Imperial Metals and the province are offering, consulting with their membership, and diligently monitoring the appropriateness, transparency, and timeliness of the actions Imperial and the province take in response to the Mt. Polley situation,” said the statement.
The Red Chris mine, which will use power from BC Hydro’s just-finished Northwest Transmission Line, is being regarded as a foundation for economic development in the region.
Imperial has contracted with Tahltan-owned companies during construction of the mine and has hired Tahltan people to work there.
As of late last week, Imperial has not added its own information concerning the offer, as outlined by Bennett, to finance an independent study.
But company official Steve Robertson was quoted as saying it still needs to obtain a permit for the Red Chris tailings pond prior to ore processing starting up.
In any event, the mine is still some weeks away from being ready to open.
Weather this past winter and problems with equipment have delayed the completion of a power line being built for Imperial.
It’s referred to as the Iskut extension and runs north of the end of the Northwest Transmission Line at Bob Quinn to a point where a smaller line branches off to the mine location.
“Due to delays … the completion of the Iskut extension is now anticipated to be in September 2014. Commissioning and startup of the Red Chris milling operations will follow the energization of the site,” Imperial stated in its second quarter of 2014 financial report released Aug. 14.
The report also indicated Imperial is due this week to bring an ore crusher and conveyors into operation.
“Mining operations have commenced at Red Chris with the first excavation of ore grade material from the East zone,” the financial report said.
“This material is being stockpiled for commencement of milling operations,” it added.