Representatives from government, unions and the mining industry welcomed the decision by the statutory decision makers with the provincial government to allow Imperial Metal’s Mount Polley Mining Corporation to return to full production, citing the mine’s importance to the economic well-being of the Cariboo.
“Mount Polley has been vitally important to this region and the decision to allow the mine to fully reopen is good news for the communities that count on it as a key economic generator,” said Cariboo North MLA Coralee Oakes in a press release issued by BC Government Caucus Communications Thursday . “Everyone connected to the mine wanted to see it reopen and it’s great to see that this has been done in a way that ensures the environment is protected. With this decision, B.C. is demonstrating that you can have a healthy resource economy and the jobs that go with it, while protecting the environment.”
On July 9, 2015, statutory decision makers with the ministries of Energy and Mines and Environment conditionally authorized the Mount Polley Mine Corporation to begin restricted operations.
The permit announced by statutory decision makers Thursday, June 23, gives authority to the Mount Polley Mining Corporation to continue operations in previously permitted areas of its Cariboo Pit and underground workings, the press release stated, noting the permit allows for the processing of up to 22,450 metric tonnes of ore per day and to store tailing in the mine’s repaired and strengthened tailings storage facility (TSF).
“We’ve been through a great deal as a community and our ability to recover and rebuild speaks not only to our resiliency, but our determination and commitment to work together to get through the hard times. That’s the Cariboo way,” said Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett in the press release. “I know the return to full production of the mine is welcome news for the communities of Likely, Williams Lake, 100 Mile House and for all of the families that depend on the jobs Mount Polley provides.”
Prior to approval, the company’s Mines Act permit amendment application underwent a lengthy review process including a thorough geotechnical review, a 30-day public consultation period and a detailed technical review by members of the mine development review committee (MDRC). The MDRC consisted of representatives from provincial agencies, First Nations, local governments, the community of Likely, and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Environment Canada.
“After a lengthy and thorough review process, statutory decision-makers with the Ministry of Energy and Mines have authorized Mount Polley mine’s return to full-operations,” said Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett. “It has taken a lot of hard work on the part of local leaders, First Nations, the company and the union to get to this point and I want to thank all involved for their tremendous efforts.”
Since the breach occurred, the Mount Polley Mine Corporation has completed repairs and reinforcement work on the TSF including extensive foundation investigation and additional buttressing of the main and perimeter embankments.
The company has also established an Independent Tailings Review Board consisting of three professional engineers, who had full independent oversight over all aspects of the design, construction, operation and closure planning for the Mount Polley Mine TSF.
“We welcome the news of the government’s decision to allow the continuation of full operations at Mount Polley mine. All of our members, along with mine management, have been working diligently to restore the area since the breach in 2014,” said United Steelworkers Local 1-425 President Paul French. “The Mount Polley mine supports more than 300 direct jobs in our area, and that’s more than 300 families who will benefit from the mine’s full re-opening.”
At the time of the August 2014 breach, the mine employed nearly 400 employees and contributed to an estimated 1,000 indirect jobs including suppliers and contractors.
“It’s been a long road to get to this point, and I know the decision to allow Mount Polley to return to full operation is welcome news not only for our community, but the entire region, said Williams Lake Mayor Walt Cobb. “The full re-start of the mine means workers will have steady, good-paying jobs to support their families. And, it means those families will remain in our community and continue to support our local businesses.”
The decision is welcome news for the mining industry and for the hundreds of people in the region that benefit from the high paying jobs that the operation provides, said Karina Briño, President and CEO, Mining Association of British Columbia,
“MABC and members are committed to continuing to engage with First Nations and stakeholders in an open and transparent dialogue about our industry’s commitment to responsible environmental management and continuous improvement,” Briño said.
When contacted by the Tribune, Williams Lake Indian Band Chief Ann Louie said the band would be putting out a statement about the decision on Friday, while Xats’ull Chief Donna Dixon could not be reached for comment.