Huckleberry Mine will be keeping workers going for another seven years if a proposed new expansion gets approved.
Engineering Manager at Huckleberry Kent Christensen, speaking to attendees at last week’s Chamber of Commerce hosted luncheon on mining, said that they’re working on updating their environmental permits to extend the mine until 2021.
Huckleberry mine is located approximately 128 kilometres directly south of Smithers or 80 km southwest of Houston.
“We are looking to get an extension to 2021,” he said. “We are currently going through the permitting and feasibility process.”
The proposed life extension won’t mean any increased output or employment. He said they currently employ 220 people, a number that is not likely to change.
However there could be a boost in short-term employment.
“We may be expanding some temporary work initially to get it off the ground, but overall it’ll be the same workforce,” he said.
They’ll still be extracting their current product, which is copper and molybdenum. Their mill processes 16,400 tonnes a day, the same as it will be after their permits clear.
“That’s not going to change. We’re not going to do an expansion of the mill itself.”
Extending the mine’s life is beneficial environmentally. He said part of the process is taking their environmental assessment from 1996 and modernizing it to today’s standards.
He said he hopes the permitting stage will be completed by this August, with construction beginning shortly after.
The largest physical difference to the site will be re-adjusting where their tailings pond goes.
As it is right now, they want to drill underneath an old pit that they have already filled with waste rock and tailings. A new tailings management facility would be created at the northwest portion of the property.
The majority of the 220 employees live in the local area, being Houston and Smithers. In taxes the mine has paid over $200 million to the government, he said.
The mine had initially been slated to shutdown the first quarter of 2014.
Huckleberry is half owned by Imperial Metals, and the other 50 per cent is owned by a Japanese group, who are the main customers of the mine’s product.