Imperial Metals Corporation has confirmed Huckleberry Mine has suspended pit operations, affecting 100 of its 260 employees.
The balance of its work force will continue milling stockpiled ore.
The mine laid off 20 employees a month ago in an effort to reduce costs as copper prices have plummeted last year due to a decline in world demand. Huckleberry chief operating officer Randall Thompson told Black Press at the time that more layoffs were not expected for the next few weeks.
Huckleberry spokesperson and Imperial Metals vice president of corporate affairs Steve Robertson said the 120 people laid off are pit workers including truck drivers and driller.
“I think the point to be made here is that Huckleberry still has value. There’s ore at depth that we would look forward to in future years in the mine plant, and it doesn’t make any sense to pursue that at a loss at this time,” said Robertson.
“We’re trying to preserve that resource for some time in the future when the mine can be operated at a profit.”
Those laid off are being put on a call back list for rehiring on basis of seniority when prices improve.
Imperial holds a 50 per cent interest in Huckleberry Mines Ltd. It also owns the Red Chris and Mount Polley copper/gold mines in B.C.
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 tailings 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 a 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.
Robertson said Huckleberry had an excellent operating record in 2015 with no loss time accidents. In December, Huckleberry received a reclamation award and a commendation for its work with the local First Nations from the Government of British Columbia.