Yellowhead faces challenges on Harper Creek project

Yellowhead’s environmental assessment application is about to enter a 30 day evaluation for completeness

Yellowhead Mining Inc. board chair and interim CEO Greg Hawkins.

Yellowhead Mining Inc. board chair and interim CEO Greg Hawkins.

It appears that Yellowhead Mining Inc. (YMI) faces three challenges in its plans to develop its proposed copper-gold-silver mine at Harper Creek, from what board chair and interim CEO Greg Hawkins reported to Clearwater council last week.

“We are here primarily to assure you that it is business as usual at Yellowhead Mining,” he said.

The first challenge is financing. The company needs to raise $1 billion to get the mine operational.

Recently they hired a well-known consultant company to help them and they expect to be able to make an announcement about that soon, he said.

The second challenge is electrical power. The B.C. government has committed to provide the additional power the mine would need by the end of 2016, Hawkins said, and he expects them to live up to that commitment.

On the other hand, BC Hydro recently said it would stop work on its planning to build a new power-line into the North Thompson Valley unless Yellowhead Mining put up some money to help pay for it.

This his company is not prepared to do, Hawkins said, first, because they can’t afford it at this time and, second, because there are at least four or five other projects in the Valley that need additional power to go ahead.

“Hydro should not follow projects,” he said. “Projects should follow Hydro.”

Relations with First Nations are the third challenge. Simpcw First Nation and Adams Lake Indian Band recently announced that they would work together to slow down the development of the Harper Creek project in order to get more time to review its environmental and social impacts.

Nevertheless, Hawkins believed they have good relations with the two bands, having signed general service agreements with both and spent several hundred dollars in hiring band members over the past few years to help with the environmental assessment application.

Last October the government instructed YMI to consult with the Neskonlith and Little Shuswap bands as well. In fact, his company had already spoken with those bands and so was not blind-sided by the request, Hawkins said.

If the mine goes ahead, it would have significant economic impact on the North Thomson Valley, the YMI board chair said.

There would be 600 jobs created during the constriction phase. Most of these would live in a camp at the mine-site, but there still would be money added to the local economy.

Once the mine was operational, there would be about 430 jobs in the mine, the mill and in administration.

Added to this would be 860 to 1,200 indirect jobs in nearby towns.

Yellowhead’s environmental assessment application is about to enter a 30 day evaluation for completeness, he said.

After that will be a 180 day application review stage, which will include a second public comment period. The final stage in the environmental assessment process will be the project decision by the relevant cabinet ministers. That stage is supposed to take 45 days.

Hawkins noted, however, that it is a common complaint in the mining industry that the government does not follow its own timetable for the environmental assessment process.