B.C. mines minister Bruce Ralston said Thursday he was concerned to hear about layoffs at Gibraltar Mine north of Williams Lake announced earlier this week.
“I hope the situation can be resolved with minimum impacts,” Ralston noted in an e-mailed statement. “We will do everything we can to support the workers, their families and the community during this difficult time.”
On Tuesday, April 20, Williams Lake’s mayor Walt Cobb and Taseko Mines vice-president of corporate affairs Brian Battison said 40 to 60 people were being laid off, effective April 27, because the mine is awaiting approval to reactivate its Gibraltar East pit.
The process began in May 2020, they said.
Ralston confirmed the province is consulting on a permit change and a 30-day extension was recently granted until May 7, 2021 to allow time for further consultation.
“We are working diligently to see this resolved as quickly as possible. Our government’s priority is to ensure all voices are heard during the consultation process and that projects are processed in a fair and timely manner.”
During the committee of the whole meeting at city hall Tuesday, April 20, Cobb said that the process had changed and that was causing the hold up.
Normal circumstances require the company to give notice of intent to do so by filling out what is called a notice of departure with the Ministry of Energy and Mines, Cobb said, reading from a statement from Taseko Mines, noting regulators have decided this now requires more than a notice of departure, saying an amendment to the existing permit is needed which requires a process of consultation.
When asked if the process has changed, the ministry responded Thursday that it has not.
Part 10.1.18 of the Health, Safety and Reclamation Code for Mines in B.C. states that the owner, agent or manager shall notify the chief permitting officer in writing of any intention to depart from the mine’s plan and reclamation program authorized under sections 10.1 or 10.1.2 of this code to any substantial degree, and shall not proceed to implement the proposed changes without the written authorization of the chief permitting office, a ministry spokesperson said.
“Gibraltar Mining Ltd. has applied for amendments to their Mines Act Permit and Environmental Management Act Permit. The amended Mines Act permit allows for an expansion of the Gibraltar East pit and storage of waste rock from that pit.”
Water management is a key consideration and waste rock volume, characteristics, and storage location can influence the quality of water discharged from the site, the ministry noted.
Additionally, an amendment to the Environmental Management Act Permit is required for the proposed water storage area in Granite Pit to ensure the protection of groundwater relied upon by down gradient residents for drinking water and potential impact to Cuisson Lake.