Harper Creek copper mine currently undergoing environmental review

Simpcw First Nation negotiating benefits agreement with Yellowhead Mining for proposed Harper Creek copper mine

Simpcw First Nation is negotiating a benefits agreement with Yellowhead Mining for its proposed Harper Creek copper mine, according to Chief Rita Matthew.

Once the terms have been finalized it will be brought to the band’s members to be ratified in a referendum.

The chief expected the referendum to be held sometime within the next few months.

Matthew was one of about 90 residents of the North Thompson Valley who took part in an information session held Feb. 24 in Clearwater’s new Dutch Lake Community Centre.

The information session was part of the environmental assessment being done for the proposed mine.

The band’s first priority is to protect the environment, the chief said.

Other objectives include getting revenue to invest in their community and in the North Thompson Valley.

The band is also interested in training opportunities and jobs for its members.

“Simpcw First Nation is not taking a position until all the data is in,” Matthew said.

Following last summer’s spill at Mt. Polley, the tailings pond facility for the proposed Harper Creek mine was of interest to many.

Rocks with the potential to create acid rock drainage will be put under water in the tailings facility to keep them from oxidizing, said Daniel Fontaine, an engineer with Knight Piésold Ltd.

The facility will be created by an earthfill/rockfill dam constructed across a valley near the mine site.

Over the nearly 30-year projected lifespan of the mine the dam will gradually rise to a height of 175 m (about 575 feet) and 400 m wide at the base.

This height is not beyond precedent in the industry, Fontaine said.

The dam will be constructed out of material taken from the open pit mine. The top of the dam will always be at least 50 m wide at the crest, and will have a stable 2H:1V downstream slope.

According to Yellowhead Mining, Harper Creek is a proposed 70,000 tonnes-per-day open pit copper mine with a 28-year mine life.

It would be located about 10 km southwest of Vavenby.

Harper Creek has a four year development period, with the initial two years focused on environmental and construction permitting, and the second two years dedicated to construction.

When developed, Harper Creek would provide up to 660 jobs during construction and up to 450 permanent jobs during operations.

The proposed mine is presently in an environmental review by the federal and provincial governments.

A public comment period started on Feb. 19 and will last until March 21. A final federal public comment period will be advertised at a later date.

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and B.C.’s Environmental Assessment Office will consider the public comments received, as well as the information in the company’s application, in preparing their environmental assessment reports.