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Options considered to extend life of Highland Valley Copper Mine

Teck looking to expand the life of the mine to 2040 instead of 2028 as currently planned
Teck is hoping to be able to extend the life of the Highland Valley Mine near Logan Lake to 2040. (Photo credit: Highland Valley Teck)

Teck Highland Valley Copper Mine is researching viable options to extend the life of the Logan Lake mine.

Yvonne Walsh, manager of community and Indigenous affairs, told Ashcroft council on Feb. 22 that the mine is slated to close in 2028 unless it is successful in a proposed 2040 project, which would increase the mine’s footprint by 185 hectares and production by about 25 per cent.

Walsh said “a lot of things are going on behind the scenes right now,” including researching new technologies and partnering with other industries and cohorts in mining to come up with the best opportunities to improve the economics for the mine.

“We’re going to continue to advance studies to assess the potential viability to hopefully extend the life of Highland Valley Copper to 2040,” Walsh said in a Zoom delegation.

A full environmental assessment is required for the proposal, as well as BC Mines Act permits amendment and other ancillary permits, which she said they hope to submit in December this year. It usually takes a full year for the province to review these types of applications and approve them. The proposal will then go before the Teck board to determine if it will proceed or not in 2023.

If approved, the 2040 project would see modifications to the existing mine, including an expanded tailings storage area as well as a potential realignment of the existing power line and Highway 97C near the L-L Dam.

“We have a busy year in front of us. We hope to be in a place where all of our feasibility studies are complete and submit our permit applications in December,” Walsh said.

She said the mine is also renewing its technology infrastructure and accelerating its robotics program.

“We’re always looking for the next big idea,” she said, adding the mine expects 35 of its 52 trucks will be autonomous by the end of the year. Although automation means many entry-level positions will no longer exist, the mine’s “number one priority is keeping our current employees employed.” Walsh said they don’t anticipate any layoffs as a result of the move to automation, and opportunities will be available for affected employees.

Hourly employees and staff at the mine come from the local communities, with 53 from Ashcroft, 24 from Cache Creek, and 160 from Logan Lake. Others come from Kamloops, Merritt, and other communities. Altogether the mine employs 1,354 people.

The mine also invests heavily in the community, contributing annually to the Ashcroft and Area Food Bank (South Cariboo Elizabeth Fry Society), Jackson House Senior Care, Twisted Desert Music Society, and the Thompson Nicola Cariboo United Way.

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