Taseko’s Gibraltar mine is still awaiting permission from the province to increase its permitted discharge of water into the Fraser River by 50% up to a maximum of 5.4 million cubic meters a year.
Brian Battison, Vice President of Corporate Affairs says it needs to be approved by the provincial government in as timely a manner as possible to avoid the only two possible outcomes.
“Number 1 is raise the dams and increase that risk of storing that water and increase the risk of a potential breach or number 2 flood the active mine site with the water and that would close the mine.”
Gibraltar Mine is currently permitted to discharge 3.6 million cubic meters of water a year, which Battison says there are no environmental impacts from.
He says this is not the first time Taseko has submitted such a permit for Gibraltar.
“And if you go back Mt. Polley sought to do a similar amount or a similar procedure to discharge water to reduce the amount of water stored at their facility.”
“So we did this back in 2005 and we were granted not the 5 million we sought but a reduced amount.”
He says all mining operations have been asked to take steps to minimize their water storage in light of the Mt. Polley tailings pond breach.
“The Ministry of Energy and Mines through the Chief Inspector of Mines has asked to minimize and reduce the amount of water storage at mines in British Columbia-we’re seeking to comply with that.”
“The Ministry of Environment has the responsibility to make sure whatever water is discharged is safe for the environment and we have proven that already through the existing water that we discharge into the Fraser and we expect to be able to prove that again with this increase.”
“The water is effectively rain and snowmelt and groundwater.”
Despite the current permitted discharge from April 10th to November 10th, the site still accumulates between 2.5 and 5 million cubic meters a year of precipitation and pit water.
The tailings storage facility currently holds 61 million cubic meters of water.
If the temporary permit, which was submitted in June, is approved increased discharge would begin this fall.
The temporary nature of the application according to Battison will enable in-river sampling and the verification of a dilution model which based on the results, a permanent application would be submitted in the Fall of 2016.