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CANADIAN MINING PERSPECTIVES – Decade passes between new metal mines in BC

Has it really been 10 years since the last new metal mine was permitted in British Columbia? It has, according to t...



Has it really been 10 years since the last new metal mine was permitted in British Columbia? It has, according to the MINING ASSOCIATION OF BRITISH COLUMBIA (MABC).

The notion came to light when a press release from the MABC crossed my desk earlier this week. In it the association said it welcomes the positive final environmental assessment decision on the Galore Creek gold-copper mine belonging to NOVAGOLD of Vancouver.

The decision will allow construction to begin immediately at Galore Creek, in the northwest corner of the province near the Eskay Creek mine. Vancouvers TECK COMINCO is earning a 50% interest in the project by taking it to production, planned for 2012. The Galore Creek project includes an open pit gold-copper mine, 65,000-t/d mill and an expected price tag of US$478 million.

British Columbia has not had a new metal mine permitted in over ten years, MABC president Michael McPhie said in the release. This important announcement by federal Minister John Baird, is most welcome by British Columbias mining sector.

Several projects came to mind: ADANACs Ruby Creek molybdenum mine; CROSS LAKEs QR gold mine; REDCORPs Tulsequah Chief copper mine; and IMPERIAL METALS Red Chris copper mine. Certainly one of them must be approved.

So CMJ asked MABC senior director, policy and communications Byng Giraud to elaborate. He responded, Adanac is only in the environmental assessment process, not even at permitting. Cross Lake is not operating and is still seeking all permits. Tulsequah Chief is not operating and in the feasibility stage to seek final permits. Red Chris is not operating and is still seeking permits … they are further back than Galore.

There are some new coal mines that were permitted and became operational in 2006. [CUSAC GOLDs] Table Mountain was the only metal mine to become operational. It is a reopening of an existing facility and its rather small.

In the industry we consider Kemess to be the last major metal mine permitted in B.C. and that was in 1997.

But this is the classic issue in the industry: its a never-ending approval process. EA does not mean permits and permits dont always mean operation. Even Galore still needs permits and we will celebrate that day!

A decade is a long time between new mine openings for a province rich in natural resources. I think a celebration is in order when Galore Creek gets its final permit, and the day mining begins, and again when it is declared to be in commercial production. In fact, I believe their will be many, many new mines to celebrate in British Columbia in the coming decade.


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