The British Columbia (BC) Government in Canada has given its conditional approval for the reopening of the open-pit copper and gold Mount Polley mine after careful evaluation.
BC minister of energy and mines Bill Bennett and minister of environment Mary Polak have announced that statutory decision-makers with their respective ministries have conditionally authorised the Mount Polley Mine Corporation to begin restricted operations.
Bennett said: "This conditional restricted permit to re-start operations is the first of three significant steps the company needs to continue operation and does not include the ability to discharge water off the site.
"In the early fall, the company will need a second conditional permit to treat and discharge water in order for operations to continue."
The conditions also require the company to submit a long-term water treatment and discharge plan to the provincial government by 30 June 2016.
If the mine fails to complete either of the last two steps, it will not be authorised to continue to operate on a long-term basis.
Following the amendment of the Mines Act and Environmental Management Act permits, the company estimates it will take around 30 days before it can begin production.
According to the amended Mines Act permit, the company can operate at roughly half the rate of normal operations.
At the time of the operation, an existing open-pit on the mine site ‘Springer Pit’ would be used to manage the tailings.
The conditions included are that the water and tailings levels in Springer Pit must remain 20m below the top of the lowest pit edge.
The company must apply for a permit to treat and discharge water and must pay an additional $6.1m reclamation security.
Mount Polley should provide a five-year mine plan and reclamation plan to government by 30 September, with an updated surface and groundwater monitoring proposal due by 31 July.
The Mount Polley mine disaster began on 4 August 2014 with a breach of the tailings pond, releasing its water and slurry with mining waste into Polley Lake.
Image: Mount Polley Mine site in British Columbia on 24 July 2014 prior to the dam breach. Photo: courtesy of Jesse Allen.