Imperial Metals speeds up work to reopen Mount Polley copper mine

Remediation work to restore Hazeltine Creek. (Image courtesy of Imperial Metals.)

Imperial Metals (TSX: III) is aiming to reopen its Mount Polley copper-gold mine in British Columbia, Canada, before the end of June, buoyed by high prices for the metal and a looming deficit.

Work to reopen the mine began late last year, with hundreds of former and new employees focused on removing water from the pit, pre-stripping waste rock to expose ore bodies and preparing the processing mill for a restart.

Since then, the company has stockpiled about 4.5 million tonnes of ore for milling, which it plans to get under way this quarter.

Mount Polley was first shut down in 2014, after a massive tailings pond collapse. Imperial Metals had to rebuild the mine’s tailings and spent more than C$70 million ($55m) in environmental rehabilitation focused mainly on restoring Hazeltine Creek, which flows into Quesnel Lake.

Operations resumed two years later, around the time the company had to place another of its BC-based copper mines — Huckleberry — into care and maintenance.

Mount Polley was shut down again in 2019 due to a slump in copper prices that placed the metal below $3 per pound, the figure the company needed at the time to make a profit.

In its first quarter results report, Imperial Metals said that once Mount Polley is up and running again, work will shift toward bring Huckleberry back online

Restart of Mount Polley has come at price tag of C$2 million ($1.55m) as of the end of March, which increased the net loss by $22.4 million, the company said.

Imperial Metals owns 30% of the Red Chris copper mine in BC, which has been its only source of revenue since 2019.