The statutory decision makers determining if Mount Polley Mine can restart have received everything they asked for from Imperial Metals and should be able to make a decision soon, Minister of Energy and Mines Bill Bennett said.
“There’s a lot of material,” Bennett told the Tribune Thursday. “It’s very technical and cannot be done overnight, but they are working hard to evaluate all that information to try and make a decision as close to the end of June or just barely into July as possible.”
In addition to a temporary restart application, Imperial Metals is being required by the government to provide a long-term plan on managing water at the site, but has not completed that plan yet.
“Right now the only mine plan proposed is for short term operations that will allow us to mine a maximum of four million tonnes of ore and use the Springer Pit for tailings disposal,” said Imperial Metals vice-president of corporate affairs Steve Robertson.
“The idea is that we can use that time to develop the longterm plan and we would hope to get the application for that into the works later this year.”
Of the 121 people still working at the mine, 75 are union members, United Steelworkers Union president Paul French said.
“We support the issuing of a permit and we don’t believe the government would issue a permit if it wasn’t safe,” French said Thursday. “We are hopeful the company’s plan they submitted is sound and they get approval.”
The company is confident it is in the position to get a permit pretty soon, Robertson said, adding the timing of course is beyond their control.
Meanwhile, restoration work continues at Hazeltine Creek and the water going down the creek is running very clear, Robertson said.
“Having the entire channel rocked in, has done a lot to clear up the water.”
As crews continue to stabilize the banks, it is anticipated that when the rains come the stabilization will prevent sediment from going in the water, he added.
The breach repair area is almost complete and crews are moving some waste rock over onto the abutments of the tailings impoundment.
Robertson said it has been reassuring to see vegetation growing at the breach site.
“It feels like the plan is all coming together,” he added.
Likely residents will have the opportunity to tour the mine site on Friday, June 12, and community meetings are being planned for June in Williams Lake and Likely, although the dates have yet to be finalized.
While it’s his ministry’s responsibility to deal with the managing of tailings and general mine operations, Bennett said water discharge is the responsibility of the Ministry of Environment.
The Ministry of Environment, however, declined making comments as the decision-making process continues to unfold.