Morrison mine sent back for more environment assessment

Pacific Booker's Morrison copper/gold mine, proposed north of Smithers, has to address environmental issues

  • Jul. 7, 2015 1:00 p.m.
Morrison mine sent back for more environment assessment

Pacific Booker’s Morrison copper/gold mine, proposed north of Smithers, has to address environmental issues before getting a provincial go-ahead.

Environment Minister Mary Polak and Mines Minister Bill Bennett have ordered a further assessment on the project.

After examining the proposal, the ministers concluded that the information currently available to them does not provide them with a sufficient level of confidence that the mine’s design can sufficiently protect the environment.

In making their decision, the ministers considered a number of matters they consider to be in the public interest, including issues of risk and uncertainty associated with fundamental aspects of the mine’s design; issues of risk and uncertainty associated with the proposed mitigation measures; insufficient baseline information about and understanding of the Morrison Lake ecosystem; the environmental and other values at stake, particularly those associated with Morrison Lake and its unique population of sockeye salmon; and whether there may be other design alternatives and/or mitigation measures that might support a higher level of confidence that significant adverse effects are not likely to result from the mine.

The ministers set out the scope of the further assessment, including:

  • additional baseline information and analysis regarding:

    • the capacity of Morrison Lake to assimilate treated waste water from the mine. A minimum of one year of new baseline data must be collected;

    • sockeye salmon use of Morrison Lake, Upper and Lower Tahlo Creek and the Morrison River;

    • hydrogeological and groundwater data for areas between the mine and Morrison Lake; and

    • instream flow requirements for the Morrison River;

  • additional analysis of the feasibility and effectiveness of alternatives to the current mine design and mitigation measures to reduce the levels of risk and uncertainty of potential impacts from the mine;

  • additional analysis of whether the mine is likely to have significant adverse effects on the environment;

  • a description and assessment of alternative means of undertaking the project with respect to tailings management that:

    • considers technology, siting and water balance;

    • presents and compares best practices and best available technologies; and

    • provides a clear and transparent evaluation of the factors that supported the selection of the most suitable option; and

  • further engagement with Lake Babine Nation and other First Nations with respect to their perspectives and opinions about the mine and the potential effects on their Aboriginal Interests.

Under the terms of the ministers’ order, Pacific Booker Minerals has three years to provide the additional information once a supplemental application information requirements document is approved by the Environmental Assessment Office.

The proposed Morrison mine is located 65 kilometres northeast of Smithers. The project is a conventional open pit mine with a planned extraction rate of about 30,000 tonnes a day and a mine life of 21 years.

A spokesman for Pacific Booker was not available for comment. However, according to a feasibility study, conducted by Wardrop Engineering Ltd., the mine could, through its 21-year run, produce 1.37 billion pounds of copper, 658,090 ounces of gold old and 10.047 million pounds of molybdenum.

The capital cost is estimated at $516.68 million.

The Morrison deposit has the advantage of existing regional infrastructure to service the region, including a deep-sea shipping terminal at the port of Stewart, a road network, nearby hydro-electric power (20 km from the project site), two existing nearby forestry camps for preproduction use, and a full service town (the Village of Granisle) within daily commuting distance from the project site.