As many of your readers are aware, Imperial Metals recently announced an upcoming suspension of operations at the Mount Polley Mine due to declining copper prices. The suspension plan includes milling of low grade stockpiles to extend operations to the end of May 2019. As the company noted, there will be no impact to the mine’s ongoing environmental monitoring and remediation program.
The remediation plan for the upcoming summer is to continue to plant shrubs and other native vegetation in the lower floodplain of Hazeltine Creek, and to complete further installation of new fish habitat in middle Hazeltine Creek and between the upper and lower canyons. The plan also includes reclaiming access roads along the creek where remediation has been completed.
This work is a continuation of the remediation work that has already been completed, including the rebuilding and installation of new fish habitat in lower Edney Creek, the clean-up and replanting of the Quesnel Lake shoreline, the channel stabilization of Hazeltine Creek, the planting of more than half a million native plants, shrubs and trees along the creek corridor, and the installation of new fish habitat in upper Hazeltine Creek for 3.3 kilometers from the outlet of Polley Lake to below the Gavin Lake Road bridge.
Of particular note is the success that the mine had last summer in reintroducing Rainbow trout to upper Hazeltine Creek. Estimates are that over 5,000 rainbow trout from Polley Lake entered the new fish habitat in Hazeltine Creek to spawn in spring 2018. The spawning was very successful and in August monitoring estimates suggest total recruitment of over 47,000 fry. Surveys showed that most migrated back into Polley Lake to overwinter.
In addition, a backup fish spawning plan involved Mount Polley staff building and maintaining a Rainbow Trout hatchery on site, in case natural spawning was not successful. The eggs for the hatchery were collected from the Polley Lake rainbow trout spawners in the spring, and the eggs and the resulting fry were reared with water pumped from Polley Lake into the hatchery. In late September last year, over 11,000 hatchery fry were released into Polley Lake, with the help of a group of students, parents and a teacher from Columneetza Middle School in Williams Lake. Each hatchery fish has a fin clipped so that they can be distinguished from those that spawned naturally in Hazeltine Creek. The mine will continue to monitor the fish in Polley Lake as part of their comprehensive environmental monitoring plan (CEMP).
The combination of natural spawning in Hazeltine Creek plus the hatchery spawning means that well over 58,000 new rainbow trout fry returned to Polley Lake in 2018, thus helping to support the population of rainbow trout in this popular fishing lake for years to come. People who fish in Polley Lake are asked to contact the mine if they happen to catch one of the rainbow trout with a clipped fin to help us keep track of how the population is doing.
While we are very disappointed to have to suspend operations in May, I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank all of Mount Polley’s staff and employees, our suppliers, consultants, contractors and our First Nations partners, for all their hard work over the last few years to help us bring Mount Polley back into operation, and complete extensive remediation of the site. Our hope is that full operations will resume once the economics of mining at Mount Polley improve.
Mount Polley Mine