Mine will not use a dam to store waste
The B.C. government has approved Pretium’s $450-million Brucejack gold mine, the first mine approved since the collapse of the Mount Polley mine tailings dam last year.
Construction of the mine, about 275 km northwest of Smithers, is expected to begin this summer and it is to be in commercial production by 2017. The project will create 500 jobs during the two-year construction period and 300 permanent jobs during its 16-year life.
The Ministry of Energy and Mines said the mine, unlike Imperial Metal’s Mount Polley gold and copper mine, will not have a facility to store mine waste held back with an earth-and-rock dam.
The failure of the Mount Polley earth dam last summer released millions of cubic metres of water and finely-ground rock containing potentially-toxic metals (called tailings) into the Quesnel watershed in the B.C. Interior.
It has raised concerns on the long-term effects of the spill on millions of spawning salmon and other aquatic life, and has led to intense scrutiny of tailings dams in B.C.
Instead of building a storage facility with a dam, Pretium will backfill about half its mine waste in a paste mixed with cement in the underground mine. The other half will be stored in the 100 metre-deep Brucejack Lake, which has no fish, said the company. The tailings will take up about 40 metres of the lake’s depth.
The tailings design, in the works before the Mount Polley failure, made sense for a small, underground mine, said Pretium president and CEO Robert Quartermain. “(The B.C. approval) shows that high-grade quality projects can still be found in British Columbia and can be permitted,” he said in an interview.
“Now it’s our plan to get it developed and put in production and provide the high-paying jobs we need in the North to keep the economy solid for the province,” said Quartermain.
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