Imperial Metals suspends B.C. copper-gold mine

The Imperial Metals Mt. Polley copper-gold mine in the Cariboo region of south-central British Columbia. Source: Imperial Metals Corp.

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The Imperial Metals Mt. Polley copper-gold mine in the Cariboo region of south-central British Columbia. Source: Imperial Metals Corp.

Imperial Metals Corp.  [III-TSX; IPMLF-OTC] is suspending operations at its Mount Polley copper-gold mine in south-central British Columbia due to declining copper prices.

The suspension of the mine includes milling of low-grade stockpiles which are expected to extend operations until the end of May. Full operations will resume once the economics of mining at Mount Polley improve, the company said in a press release.

There will be no impact to the mine’s ongoing environmental monitoring and remediation program stemming from a tailings dam breach in August 2014 that released over 21 million cubic metres of water and mine tailings in the surrounding environment and water courses.

According to B.C.’s Chief Inspector of Mines, the spill was due to a structural failure of the Mount Polley tailings storage facility perimeter embankment.

As a result, all mines in B.C. were ordered to conduct accelerated dam safety inspections and assess the safety of their impoundments. Mining operations were suspended in August, 2014 due to the tailings dam breach.

But Mount Polley resumed normal operations in June 2016, following the receipt of authorizations from the B.C. Ministry of Energy and Mines and the B.C. Environment Ministry.  The company says significant progress has been made with the remediation of the areas impacted by the breach in 2014.

The company has said the 2018 production target for Mount Polley is 15.6 million pounds of copper and 39,500 ounces of gold.

Meanwhile, the Mount Polley closure decision means that hundreds of people will lose their jobs, Williams Lake Mayor Walter Cobb told CBC News.

“We’re talking not only a couple of hundred employees at the mine, but we’re talking all the support workers, all the rest that goes along with it,” Cobb told CBC.

The Mount Polley Mine, located 56 km northeast of Williams Lake,  is an open pit copper-gold mine with an underground component. The property covers 20,113 hectares, and consists of seven mining leases.  Imperial Metals, through its subsidiaries, owns the Red Chris, Mount Polley and Huckleberry copper mines in B.C. It also holds a 50% stake in the Ruddock Creek lead-zinc property, located 155 km northeast of Kamloops, B.C.

After reaching a high of $2.03 on January 7, 2018, the day the suspension plan was announced, Imperial Metals shares are off 12.06% or 24 cents to $1.75 today (January 8, 2018). The stock is trading in a 52-week range of $2.19 and 93 cents.

In the third quarter ended September 30, 2018, Imperial Metals reported a loss of $28.7 million or 24 cents a share on revenue of $70.5 million. That compared to a year earlier loss of $1.9 million or $0.02 on revenue of $90.15 million.

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