Mount Polley Gets Permit for Restricted Restart

Under the restricted restart permitted by the British Columbia government, Mount Polley can process up to 4 million mt
of ore over the course of a year. Shown here is recovery construction activity in the breached area of the tailings storage
impoundment. (Photo: Imperial Metals)
The British Columbia Ministry of Energy and Mines and Ministry of Environment issued permit amendments in early July allowing Imperial Metals to undertake a restricted restart of operations at its Mount Polley copper-gold mine in south-central British Columbia. The mine had been shut down since August 2014 as a result of a massive tailings dam failure.

The new permits allow processing of a maximum of 4 million metric tons (mt) of ore over one year—approximately 50% of capacity of the Mount Polley processing plant. During modified operations, plant tailings will be stored in the property’s mined-out Springer pit. Ore will be mined from the Cariboo pit and the Boundary zone underground workings.

“The rehabilitation and restoration of the areas affected by the August 4, 2014, breach of the tailings embankment at the Mount Polley mine will continue during the period of modified operation,” an Imperial statement said. “Imperial remains committed to working with the Ministry of Environment, First Nations and the local community to mitigate the effects of the breach.

“The permit amendments to recommence operations at Mount Polley allow the mine to retain a large portion of its skilled workforce, which is critical to ongoing operations.”

British Columbia’s Minister of Energy and Mines Bill Bennett said, “This conditional restricted permit to restart operations is the first of three significant steps the company needs to take to continue operation and does not include the ability to discharge water off the site. In the early fall, the company will need a second conditional permit to treat and discharge water in order for operations to continue. Lastly, the company must submit a long-term water treatment and discharge plan to the government by June 30, 2016. The mine will not be authorized to continue to operate long term if it fails to complete either of the last two steps.”

A soil-mixing machine at work in the breached area.
(Photo: Imperial Metals)
Permit conditions also include: water and tailings levels in Springer pit must remain 20 m below the top of the lowest pit edge; Imperial Metals must pay an additional C$6.1 million reclamation security; and a five-year mine plan and reclamation plan must be provided to the government by September 30.

Ministry of Energy and Mines inspectors will be on site at Mount Polley during the initial startup period and will conduct regular site inspections once the mine is operating. Additionally, permit conditions require Imperial to provide weekly reports to the government, First Nations, the Cariboo Regional District, and the community of Likely detailing water management and water quality results. If necessary, ministry inspectors have full authority to issue stop work orders for any area of the mine found to be in noncompliance.

As featured in Womp 2015 Vol 08 -