Huckleberry Mine’s suspension affects local industry

Huckleberry Mine's suspension is affecting local businesses who made profit out of the mine.

By Flavio NIenow

Huckleberry Mine’s suspension is not only affecting the lives of over 100 employees, but also local businesses who made profit out of the mine.

Kyle Thomson, owner and General Manager of Monster Industries-a general construction company from Houston, said that with the Houston Forest Products sawmill closing in May 2014 and now Huckleberry’s suspension, Monster Industries has lost over $1 million per year in revenue.

“Monster does over $500,000 annually with Huckleberry Mine, which accounts for about six jobs or three per cent of our annual revenue,” he explained.

Thomson said that thanks to Monster Industries’ aggressive growth in other areas of B.C., the company has been able to outgrow their losses. However, if more companies in the area shutdown, Monster Industries “will be laying off eventually as well,” he said.

Thomson said he expects 2016 and 2017 to be difficult years for people in Northern B.C.

“I would be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned now,” he said.

Imperial Metals, which holds a 50 percent interest in Huckleberry Mines Ltd., also owns the Red Chris and Mount Polley copper/gold mines in B.C.

Huckleberry spokesperson and Imperial Metals vice president of corporate affairs, Steve Robertson said the other two B.C. mines would remain operating. Red Chris just opened in 2015 south of Dease Lake, and Mount Polley reopened after a trailings pond breach in the Cariboo region.

“They’re obviously affected by the lower copper prices, but each mine has a unique set of economic parameters around it. Red Chris is very low cost operation that’s got high debt load, and Mount Polley has more levers to pull because it’s got some higher grades in certain areas. So there’s more flexibility at those operations than at Huckleberry,” explained Robertson.

Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen said Huckleberry’s announcement was a tough blow so soon after Christmas.

“There’s no question this is difficult news to deliver and to receive,” he said.

According to Cullen, “the wheels are already in motion” to minimize the impact on northwest communities. The MP spoke with community leaders in Houston last week and said he was awaiting a return call from Senior managers at Imperial Metals.

“Getting some basic information from the company so that we know where laid off workers live, how long reduced operations are expected to last, and any insight about the future of the mine will definitely help us to plan our next steps,” he said.