Imperial Metals announced Monday it will suspend operations at Mount Polley Mine near Likely at the end of May, 2019 due to falling copper prices.
The suspension will impact between 110 and 115 union employees, said Dan Will, business agent for United Steelworkers Local 1-2017. Many of those impacted workers live in Williams Lake and the surrounding area.
“It’s not good for the community, it’s not good for the workers, not good for anybody” said Will, who received the news via a phone call Monday from mine manager Dale Reimer.
“It was news to the union but we’ve known that the price of copper has been going down.”
In a news release, Imperial Metals said the suspension plan includes milling of low grade stockpiles which is targeted to extend operations to the spring shutdown. There will be no impact to the mine’s ongoing environmental monitoring and remediation program in relation to the 2014 spill, the company confirmed.
Imperial Metals president Brian Kynoch said about 250 people will be impacted in total.
“About two thirds of our workforce is unionized and about a third aren’t,” he said Tuesday.
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During a public meeting held in Williams Lake in December, Lyn Anglin, vice president of environmental affairs said the on-going dredging of the Springer Pit, which was the temporary holding facility following the breach, continued to be delayed. She said they had hoped they would be able to use the Springer Pit to resume mining for new material.
Kynoch said while the inability to mine the Springer Pit for more material is a factor, it is the price of copper that drove the decision to suspend operations.
“If the price of copper had been over $3 we could have found a way to keep going but at less than $3 it doesn’t work,” he said. “We just couldn’t figure out a way that we could get through this year. It still has some good years left but it needs some capital to get to those years. There’s more ore but we need to move some stuff out before we can get to it.”
Reacting Cariboo Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett said the suspension of operations will be devastating to workers, the community and families.
“This affects over a 1,000 people when you consider suppliers, truck drivers and schools, it will affect everybody in some way in business,” Barnett said. “It’s a sad thing when anything like this happens.”
While the price of copper is down, Barnett said business are struggling to survive added costs such as the new employer tax, carbon tax and income tax.
“Even the permitting process for permitting these days is an absolute nightmare,” Barnett added. “I’m just very concerned about the atmosphere out there for all resource industries in British Columbia.”
Mount Polley mine is located in south-central British Columbia, 56 kilometres northeast of Williams Lake.
The Mount Polley mine is owned and operated by Mount Polley Mining Corporation, a subsidiary of Imperial Metals.
This story was updated Tuesday with comments from Imperial Metals and MLA Donna Barnett