Tuesday, December 1, 2015

BC is down to Eight Major Metal Mines

I have been expecting to see a lot more new metal mines to open in BC over the last 10 years, but we have only seen two entirely new deposits developed and the re-opening of two old ones with new mines

I am focusing here on metal mines and not on coal mines.   This is mainly because I have spent years doing work that relates to metal mining exploration on a regular basis and know the landscape much better.

These are the current operating major metal mines in BC:
  • Copper Mountain near Princeton - the current mine is the latest iteration of the copper mine in the area.   No mining happened from mid 1996 till the second half of 2012.  Mine is expected to last till 2029
  • Gibraltar near Williams Lake - a copper and molybdenum mine
  • Highland Valley Copper near Logan Lake - a very large copper mine that has been in operation since 1963 and is expected to last till 2027
  • Huckleberry south of Houston - a copper, gold and silver mine.  Owned by Imperial Metals,  Expected to close in 2022
  • Mount Milligan -  A copper gold mine near Fort St James and Mackenzie - The newest metal mine in BC and expected to operate till 2036
  • Mount Polley -  A copper gold mine west of Williams Lake.  The mine re-opened this summer after the disastrous events of 2014.  Owned by Imperial Metals amd expected to operate till 2025.
  • New Afton near Kamloops - A copper gold mine.  The mine operated till the early 1990s and reopened in 2012.  It is expected to operate till 2024
  • Red Chris - This is a new Imperial Metals copper gold mine that opened in the middle of this year.  Expected to operate till 2043
There are a number of very small scale metal mines that are or have operated in the last few years.  Most of them have been little more than large scale exploration sampling:
Blackdome, Bonaza Ledge, Bralorne, QR, Treasure Mountain, Yellow Giant

In the past the government did not mention these small scale  mines in their reports but it has done so in recent years.

All eight major metal mines have copper as their primary resource and this becomes a problem if the price of copper continues to fall.  The current price of $2.08 USD/lb is low enough that the some of the mines are going to get dangerously close to losing money.   Red Chris needs a price of $2,20 USD/lb to make money.   The only upside is that all the costs in Canadian dollars are cheaper now.

Closed and might re-open
  • Endako -  A molybdenum near Fraser Lake.  This one should really concern people because through good and bad times the mine kept producing.  As far as I know this is the first time Endako has shut down since in opened in 1965. It has been closed for a year now.
  • Myra Falls in Strathcona Park -  A lead silver mine that closed in 2015 though there is still a small staff on site maintaining the mine.  The mine had been in operation since the 1960s
Possible Mines (though honestly other than Ajax and Brucejacl, I think they are all not going anywhere at the moment)
  • Ajax - a former copper mine very close to Kamloops owned by KGHM International.   There is significant community opposition and low prices for copper, both of which could put this project into limbo
  • Aley -  a niobium project owned by Taseko Mines but nothing seems to be happening with it at the moment
  • Blackwater - a New Gold Inc project that has seen few updates to the website in 2015
  • Brucejack - A gold silver project near Stewart that has been approved for construction and they seem to have raised the money needed for the project this fall.   Construction start in 2016?
  • Dome Mountain - there has been significant work done to build the mine but it has not opened
  • Harper Creek - a copper gold project owned by YellowHead Mining
  • Kemess Underground - the Kemess (north) proposed mine is one of the few projects refused an environmental certificate.  It is currently owned by AuRico
  • Kitsault - a molybdenum project.   The mine operated for 18 months in the early 1980s.  Given that Endako has shut due to prices, it is hard to see how this much more remote mine would open.   The mine needs to get $6.73 USD/lb for molybdenum just to cover operational costs, the current price is $4.90 USD/lb.
  • KSM - A copper gold project in the North West.  The BC environmental assessment certificate was issued July 29th 2014.  The federal government approved it on December 10th 2014.  It is unclear when construction might start.  Low prices for copper may delay this project because it located in a remote enough area to make capital construction more expensive.
  • Ruddock Creek - lead zine mine project owned by Imperial Metals
Major Projects in Limbo
  • Galore Creek - owned by NovaGold and been in limbo for years now
  • Kutcho Creek - a smaller scale mine 100 kilometers west of Dease Lake.  It has been in the BC Environmental Assessment Process since 2005.
  • New Prosperity - this would be a major copper gold mine but without getting agreement for the First Nations and a new federal environmental assessment it is not going anywhere
  • Tulsequah Chief - in the 1990s there was a strong push to build this mine, but not it has been in limbo for years
Major mines that have closed in the last 30 years
  • Beaverdell - closed 1992
  • Brenda - closed 1990
  • Carolin mine - 1984
  • Equity Silve - closed 1994
  • Eskay Creek - closed 2008
  • Golden Bear - closed 2001
  • Goldstream mine near Revelstoke - closed 1996
  • Granduc - closed 1984
  • Island Copper  - closed 1996
  • Scottie Gold Mine - 1984
  • Shasta-Baker - closed 1991
  • Silvana - closed 1993
  • Snip - closed 1999
  • Sullivan - closed 2001

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