We can all agree that the past 12 months have been difficult.
From economic challenges to mental health issues, COVID-19 has impacted us all. At Mount Polley Mining Corporation (“Mount Polley”) we have had the added challenge of not operating — of not being able to provide and create jobs and contribute to the Williams Lake economy like we have in the past.
Now, as we all look forward to COVID-19 vaccinations and the re-opening of the economy, we at Mount Polley are working hard to return to operations when it’s safe to do so. Mount Polley has been an active member of the business community in the Cariboo for over two decades and intends to remain so for years to come. When in full operation, Mount Polley provided over 300 full-time, well-paying jobs. While being a regional economic generator is important, Mount Polley is most proud of our community and Indigenous relationships. We are particularly proud to be located in the traditional lands of the T’exelcemc and Xat’sull nations.
It is as a result of the mutual support that Mount Polley has been able to carry out world-class remediation and examine improved approaches to mining in order to hopefully soon reach a decision on re-starting operations.
“Mount Polley has invited the Williams Lake First Nation to participate in advancing a mine plan that would accelerate the opening but also provide for long-term, sustainable, and environmentally sensitive operations,” states Chief Willie Sellars. “We believe that by working with MPMC and government that the restoration of this regional economic generator could be made possible in a relatively short time.”
Mining and milling operations were suspended at the mine in 2019 and since that time the Mount Polley team has been busy continuing to monitor, to explore, and to complete remediation works while observing COVID-19 safety protocols.
• All areas along the Hazeltine and Edney creeks have been replanted and the fish have returned.
• Passive, in-situ water treatment in the Springer pit has improved the water quality such that the water contained in this pit meets all the criteria for discharge without any further treatment.
• The small exploration program conducted last year identified new target areas that may host deposits which could provide potential for expansion of the known mineralization on the mine site.
“Once the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us, we look forward to potentially re-opening Mount Polley,” states Brian Kynoch, President of Imperial Metals. “With the return of high copper and gold prices, we are working together with our First Nations partners and the community to re-open the mine. Recently, we carried out exploration work, and are investigating the potential of underground block cave mining at Mount Polley.”
One of our new approaches could be an increase in underground mining through a technique known as block cave mining. This type of mining utilizes new technology and is more environmentally friendly, using electric conveyers instead of diesel trucks to move rock from underground. Block cave mining is also less intrusive, decreasing added waste rock at the mine site. While relatively new in Canada, block caving is a well-tested mining technique that is more cost effective than historic underground mining methods.
This mining technique has the added advantage of decreased dependence on storing waste rock at the surface and isolating blasting to underground. Block caving also allows the output of the mine to increase while reducing the visible impact of mining.
Much work remains to be done, but we at Mount Polley remain committed to the future—a future in partnership with our community.
Don Parsons is the chief operating officer of Mount Polley.