Morrison Mine’s future uncertain

The project still waits for a decision from the ministry of environment.

One of the consequences of the Mount Polley mining disaster in August 2014 was the future of the proposed Morrison Copper/Gold Mine project.

The proposed project by Pacific Booker Minerals Inc. would be located 65 km northeast of Smithers and 35 km north of Granisle.

Pacific Booker Minerals was originally denied their environmental assessment certificate for the Morrison Mine project back in October 2012. However, a ruling by the B.C. Supreme Court overturned the original ruling in December 2013.

Last June, Pacific Booker Minerals application for an environmental assessment certificate began to be re-evaluated by the environmental assessment office. The government was required to reconsider the Morrison Mine application, and was just about to reach the deadline for a decision when a massive dam holding the toxic waste water from the Mount Polley Copper-Gold Mine collapsed, releasing 25 million cubic metres of contaminated water and mining waste, contaminating lakes, creeks and rivers.

Since that mining disaster, Morrison Mine’s future has been left in limbo.

Earlier this year, the environmental assessment office ordered Pacific Booker Minerals to reassess its plan for storing tailings under water and behind an earth-and-rock dam at the proposed Morrison Mine.

An engineering panel recommended that industry must move away from storing tailings under water behind earthen dams. The panel also suggested filtering tailings to remove the water and dry stacking them to eliminate the risk of tailings dam failures.

On March 23, 2015, Pacific Booker Minerals submitted a report to the environmental assessment office in regards to the Mount Polley tailings storage facility failure. The report reinforced the company’s opinion that the Morrison Mine project has been designed “using best available practices and could be safely constructed, operated, and closed to protect the environment.”

The environmental assessment office has acknowledged receipt of the response and, as per the letter received May 14, the submissions will be forwarded to the minister of environment. The minister will then decide whether the responses by Pacific Booker Minerals provided a sufficient basis on which to lift the suspension order for Morrison Mine.

The next step for Pacific Booker Minerals is to wait for that decision. Pacific Booker Minerals told Lakes District News that the company is still fully committed to the development of the Morrison Mine project.

The $517-million project is a conventional open-pit mine with an extraction rate of approximately 30,000 tonnes per day. The life span of the mine is expected to be 21 years.

The project is expected to employ 1117 part-time, full-time and temporary workers during the two-year construction period and another 661 part-time, full-time and temporary workers over the 21 year life span of the mine. It is expected, if approved, that the project will bring in an estimated $64.5 million in provincial revenue over its life span.

Lake Babine Nation’s Chief Wilf Adam said he is against this proposed mine.

“We are still totally against this mine as it is [located] within our last wild salmon producing area,” he said. “That tailing pond they [Pacific Booker Minerals] proposed will have an unproven rubber membrane that we cannot take a chance on.”