(from l) Ashcroft Councillors Marilyn Anderson, Deb Tuohey, Jonah Anstett, Nadine Davenport, and Mayor Barbara Roden (seated) shared a bit of Christmas spirit before Ashcroft’s council meeting on Dec. 9. (Photo credit: Anne Yanciw)

Highland Valley Copper hopes to extend mine life until 2040

Teck HVC presentation at Ashcroft council meeting explains plans for site’s future

By Raven Nyman

The Village of Ashcroft held a meeting of council on Monday, Dec. 9 at 4:30 p.m. with all members of Village staff and council and just one member of the public in attendance, with the exception of the evening’s presenters and media.

For the last regular meeting of 2019, a few members of council even donned festive wear. The HUB Online Network was present but did not begin recording until after the first delegation of the evening, as per the presenters’ wishes.

HVC 2040: mine extension and technology updates

Peter Martell presented the first delegation of the night on behalf of Teck Resource’s Highland Valley Copper Mine.

Martell, Teck’s superintendent of environment and ministry affairs, offered an update on current projects at the mine, including Teck’s plans to extend Highland Valley Copper until 2040. Teck is currently undergoing studies to extend the site while using new technologies that will make the extension more economical.

“Everywhere across the mining industry new technologies are changing the industry and really it’s about improving efficiency but also reducing impacts of the mine on the community—and that’s really what the technology is all about.”

In 2019, Teck rolled out a program called “Race 21”, which focused on renewing technology, accelerating automation, connecting data, and empowering employees.

Martell referenced the automated haul truck pilot program at Highland Valley Copper (HVC), noting that the mine will have up to nine haul trucks driving autonomously this year. If the pilot project is successful, the site will be moving into full automation in other pits as well sometime within the next four years.

Currently, the automated haul trucks are completely segregated from the rest of the mine site, so there is no mix between automated and non-automated equipment. “It’s a way to test the technology in the safest way that we can,” said Martell.

“Currently, mine life is scheduled to close in 2027, 2028,” he added. “The HVC 2040 project will extend the mine life from 2028 to 2040. The ore is getting harder and the grade is getting lower in the mine, so the economics aren’t as good as they used to be.”

The biggest cost savings for HVC will come through reducing wait times at shovels and eliminating breaks, he said. “We actually are planning to maintain our workforce regardless of the fact that we’re going to have a few less truck drivers.”

HVC 2040’s key project components include an extension to existing pits and dumps, an extension of the highland TSF, a proposed new power supply, and the potential rerouting of local power and gas lines. An increased production rate of 25 per cent is also planned, as well as waste-rock dump extensions.

Martell said that the transmission line update may not be necessary, which could reduce costs. The project also triggers an environmental assessment that will begin in 2020.

“We hope to submit the application at the end of 2020 and get an approval by the end of 2021,” said Martell. “It’s a pretty aggressive schedule.”

Mayor Barbara Roden inquired about scheduling a council tour of the HVC site, which Martell said could be arranged sometime in the future.

Community Christmas tree

The second delegation of the evening came from Joyce Beddow, who presented on behalf of an informal group that hopes to establish a village Christmas tree next year.

“We’re going to form a group, probably in January. If it doesn’t work on Village property, maybe we could look at private property,” said Beddow. “Our end dream is to have the park as a winter wonderland, which can’t happen in one year, but every year we could build on it.”

Beddow pitched the community Christmas tree light-up idea as an opening to the holiday season. As per council’s standard, the delegation served as a presentation only, with a response and feedback from council to come at a later date.

Coun. Marilyn Anderson expressed her support for the idea, noting that it could be a great complement to the Village, and Coun. Nadine Davenport said that she could envision it coming to life in the park.

Items of Correspondence

Council addressed a proposed bylaw amendment from Steve Takacs, ultimately agreeing that they cannot amend a bylaw to exempt sidewalk upkeep for a single property in the Village.

They also discussed a letter received from the Ashcroft Terminal regarding correspondence from Desert Sands Community School. Mayor Roden also clarified on behalf of Jim Duncan that the proposed Evans Road walking trail does not suggest an extension into the Terminal’s property.

Council discussed the importance of residents keeping away from the Terminal’s property during construction. “We want the industry, we want the community to grow and that’s important, so we have to co-operate with the people at the terminal,” said Coun. Deb Tuohey.

“We all like the slough,” said Coun. Davenport, “But right now it’s going through a transition that we all have to respect as well.”

Staff reports

There was no new business for the evening, which brought council to the agenda’s staff reports. First, council approved Policy 5.1, Declared Fire Operations Service Level.

Next, council voted all in favour to support an application to Northern Development Initiative Trust for a grant of up to $35,000 to host an intern under the Local Government Internship Program.

Roden said the intern program is excellent and offers a great grounding in local government.

Financial update

Council also voted to approve the 2020 schedule of council meetings before Chief Financial Officer Yogi Bhalla offered a budget presentation and financial update for the community.

“Things have moved fast this year,” he said. The garbage truck needed repairs, but overall, the Village remains under budget. “It’s good to be in this position before the end of the year.”

Both the sewage and operating funds are on budget. Bhalla also explained that the Village of Ashcroft is an asset-heavy organization, but most of those assets are older and in moderate condition.

Going forward, he stated that the community must pay attention to setting up reserves for future replacements.

“We’re looking at what’s coming due… Engineering life is one thing, real condition is another.”

Examining the condition of maturing assets is important, and Bhalla stated that Ashcroft’s assets “have been maintained well and are living way beyond their engineered life”.

Roden thanked Bhalla for his report and for the money he has saved the Village.

Council reports

Roden thanked DCO Daniela Dyck for her wonderful work with the Village’s Santa Parade float and estimated that between 400 and 500 people attended the parade on Dec. 6.

CAO Anne Yanciw also clarified that there was a scheduling mix-up on the evening’s agenda, which meant that Fire Chief White was not available on Dec. 9 to make a presentation, and would instead appear at a future council meeting.

The night’s question period was quieter than usual with the absence of frequent gallery member Gloria Mertens, and at 5:49 p.m. Roden brought the meeting to a close. As always, council agendas and minutes are accessible via the Village website (https://ashcroftbc.ca/). The meeting can also be viewed online at the HUB Online Network’s YouTube channel.


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