So far approximately 100 people have submitted responses to the Mount Polley Mine restart plan, said David Morel assistant deputy minister of energy and mines.
Morel, who was participating in a conference call with the Ministry of Environment and the Cariboo Regional District Board last Friday, said the public comment period ends May 2.
“We will be working through with Imperial Metals and technical experts to make sure the public comments are addressed,” Morel said, adding it is hoped the restart permit application process will be wrapped up by the end of May and a decision will be made by mid June.
“There has been a lot of good work done by the company, First Nations and the technical team that has been working on pushing it forward as fast as we can,” Morel said.
Three permits are before the government.
The first one is to restart the mine, the second one is for short-term water discharge, while the third permit is for long-term water treatment.
Whether the mine restarts or not, water will have to be discharged and treated, Morel said.
Quesnel Mayor Bob Simpson reminded the ministries of the need to engage more with First Nations near Quesnel, particularly the Red Bluff Indian Band who are down stream on Quesnel River.
“They see themselves as the first impacted First Nation,” Simpson said.
Responding Ministry of Environment assistant deputy minister Lori Hall said the short-term water discharge permit will have potential impacts down stream so there will be consultation in Quesnel and with area First Nations, and again when it comes to reviewing the long-term water management permit.
Simpson asked if a trap wasn’t created in some regards for Mount Polley by not having the water discharge dealt with in a timely fashion.
“It feels to me like we are saying we can open the mine without addressing the discharge issue and the discharge issue can be dealt with later,” Simpson said.
Referring to the independent panel report, Morel responded that the water held in the tailings impoundment didn’t cause the breach, but made it more pronounced.
“I think we’re recognizing with this mine and other mines in B.C. there is a positive water balance issue,” Morel said, noting it’s an issue that will have to be dealt with in the long-term permit, whether the mine opens or not.
The startup if approved would see the mine operating at a 50 per cent capacity, Morel confirmed.