By Flavio NienowLakes District News
It’s been over a year since the Huckleberry Mine suspended its pit operations as declining world demand saw copper prices plummet.
Approximately 100 workers were laid off in January 2016 and another 160 workers lost their jobs when the mine stopped all operations on Aug. 31, 2016.
But since the mine was placed on “care and maintenance” approximately six months ago, copper prices have actually been increasing.
Copper was above US $2.75 per pound last week, a considerable improvement from early 2016, when copper was near the US $2 mark.
According to Steve Robertson, a spokesperson for Huckleberry Mine, resumption of operations is still a possibility.
“The company will continue to monitor sustainability of economic factors to determine if resumption of operations is an appropriate response,” he said.
“But in the meantime, operations do remain suspended.”
Meanwhile the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako (RDBN) has been preparing for different outcomes that could impact the RDBN’s property tax base.
One of the scenarios involves the permanent closure of the mine. In this scenario, the regional district would see a reduction of 0.5 per cent of its tax base.
A second scenario involves the demolition of the mine. This would be a final decision that would not allow a reversal. In this scenario, the RDBN would lose approximately one per cent of its tax base.
According to a report prepared by RDBN staff, the usual pattern for mines in similar situations is that they are placed on care and maintenance for a year or two, followed by permanent closure if metal prices do not improve over that time.
“Permanent closure may be eventually followed by demolition, but this is a last resort that usually takes a number of years to finalize,” says the report.
Huckleberry Mine is an open pit copper mine located near Houston. Imperial Metals holds 50 per cent interest in Huckleberry Mines Ltd., owner/operator of the mine.
The remaining 50 per cent is held by the Japan Group, comprised of Mitsubishi Materials Corporation, Dowa Mining Co. Ltd. and Furukawa Co.