KAMLOOPS, B.C. – The company behind a controversial copper-gold mine near Kamloops, B.C., has unveiled a new proposal in an effort to address concerns about potential health risks.
Members of the Kamloops Area Preservation Association have said an estimated 90,000 people could be exposed to toxic dust containing arsenic, lead and aluminum that would blow over the city from the open-pit mine that they fear is too close to homes.
Now, KGHM Ajax has come up with a plan to move the mine farther south and eliminate a tailings stack in favour of a conventional tailings pond to the southeast.
The tailings pond will cover Goose Lake, which the company described as a slough with a maximum depth of one metre.
Ajax officials announced last August that they were working on a new mine plan. They also said the pit would be expanded, along with ore production.
The joint venture involves Poland-based KGHM and Vancouver junior partner Abacus Mining & Exploration Corp. (TSXV:AME).
The project must still be approved by the federal and provincial governments after environmental assessments have been done.
If that happens, the company hopes to begin construction in July 2016.
KGHM Ajax has bought properties from two families in order to facilitate the new mine footprint.
“We’ve treated these people fairly and with respect,” company spokesman Yves Lacasse said.
“No one was forced to sell their land.”
Company officials said changes are designed to address community concerns, including dust and visual impact.
“Most of the changes are a result of listening to the community,” said project manager Warner Uhl, who outlined the reconfigured mine to the media in a series of meetings.
The most significant change will see a tailings pond, a man-made lake created using waste rock to form an earthen berm and dam.
The tailings pond will move more than five kilometres southeast of the formerly proposed 61-metre tall dry tailings stack conceived under the original plan in 2010.
The plan for the dry tailings stack will be abandoned.
“The full height would have been 200 feet,” Uhl said.
“The concern with the Coquihalla (Highway) was if there had been a slide, it would have impacted the Coquihalla.”
Elimination of the tailings stack also means the mine will not be visible from the highway.
“The biggest advantage with wet (tailings) is we get away from this being close to the Coquihalla.”
The proposals will now be sent through the federal-provincial comprehensive environmental assessment.
KGHM plans to submit its complete application next March.
The company has a 60,000 tonnes-a-day production target for the anticipated 20-year life of the mine that would employ about 500 people. (Kamloops This Week)