Imperial Metals’ Mount Polley mine could see an extension to its mine life.
The mine’s general manager Tim Fisch says the mine is in the process of doing a pushback on its main springer pit, the main ore zone that the company extracts ore from to feed the concentrator.
He notes that it’s still a little premature to speculate how long of an extension the mine will see.
“Having said that, we’re actively going ahead with that pushback,” Fisch says.
The official mine life is expected to be to the first quarter of 2016. Fisch says he can’t, due to public-disclosure policies, say how much longer the mine could run.
“We’re continuing to actively explore and drill the property and we have high hopes that we’ll actually be able to push our mine life beyond that target date.”
Located in Likely, Mount Polley has about 378 full-time employees, and that number remains relatively stable. Fisch expects that amount to remain the same for the next few years.
Last fall Mount Polley began a major underground exploration project in order to tap into additional underground reserves that may be attainable through underground mining methods.
“That project is going along quite well,” Fisch says.
Mount Polley is also continuing with its genome pilot project, which is being studied by researches from UBC and Genome British Columbia.
A pilot passive-treatment system at the mine is being used as a field test to determine how effective bacterial passive treatment is on wastewater from the mine.
“The initial results look very promising,” he says.
“We’re seeing good reductions in dissolved metals within our mine effluent. We have good hopes that going forward we’ll be able to utilize that on a full scale.”
Production wise, Mount Polley did well in 2010, a trend that is continuing this year. The mill throughput in the plant has been above budget targets for the last 14 months and the mine expects to see that continue.
Tonnes mined in the open pit are above budget targets, another continuing trend.
Mount Polley has also installed a “magnetite circuit” within its concentrator — the mine recovers magnetite tailings from its copper-gold process, and that material is processed into a byproduct later sold to coal companies as a method of recovering fine coal particles.
“It’s a byproduct revenue for us and it’s been quite successful,” Fisch says, noting that since the project was commissioned in late 2010, the process is still in its early stages.
“That’s keeping us quite busy.” He says its a very active time for the mining industry as a whole and expects to see that trend continue for at least the next five years.
The mine’s parent company, Imperial Metals, has other large projects on the go, including the Red Chris Mine, just south of Dease Lake in northern B.C.
The company expects that mine to be in production in the next five years.
The company has received environmental certificates from the province and the federal government for Red Chris.
“Part of the delay has been awaiting the announcement of the northwest transmission line that was just recently announced by BC Hydro,” Fisch says. “It’s about a 30,000-tonne-a-day plant and to be able to build a mine of that size, you need, of course, hydro electricity.”
With the transmission line now going in, Imperial Metals is now preparing to secure engineering firms and procure its equipment to go ahead and construct the project.
“We have high hopes that we will be breaking ground up there this summer.”