A recent improvement in some commodity prices could mean good news in the near future for northern B.C.’s economy.
Huckleberry Mine, an open pit copper mine located 130 km south of Smithers, was placed on care and maintenance in September 2016 after declining world demand saw copper prices plummet.
Since then, copper prices have been steadily increasing. Copper reached US$3.12 per pound last week, a considerable improvement from early 2016, when copper was near the US$2 mark.
According to Steve Robertson, a spokesperson for the Huckleberry Mine, reopening the mine is a possibility.
“We are taking a look at all our operational mine plans in all three of our mines – Huckleberry, Mount Polley and Red Chris – and that’s an exercise that will probably be wrapped up in the next month,” he said. “At that time we will be able to determine whether or not opening or some variation in the original mine plan is going to be appropriate.”
Imperial Metals Corporation, which previously held 50 per cent interest in the Huckleberry Mine, became the sole owner of the mine earlier this year.
“The purchase of the 50 per cent interest in the project is a strong signal to British Columbians that Imperial Metals believes strongly in the future potential of Huckleberry Mine,” said Robertson earlier this year. “We have faith that at some point we will re-enter a bull market and see sustained higher prices for copper.”
Meanwhile another northern B.C. mine has also been waiting for commodity prices to improve.
Over 300 workers lost their jobs when the Endako Mine, a surface molybdenum mine near Fraser Lake, suspended operations in December 2014. The mine was placed on ‘care and maintenance’ in July 2015 due to weakness in the molybdenum price.
A recent upswing in pricing brought molybdenum to around US$8.25 per pound. However, according to John Pearson, vice president of investor relations at Centerra Gold Inc. – the company that now owns the mine, that’s still not enough.
Although the company does not have a set trigger price necessary to reopen the mine, Pearson pointed out that when mine operations were suspended, molybdenum was sitting at US$9 per pound, and averaged $11.40 per pound for all of 2014.
“We expect the molybdenum pricing to continue to improve over time, but are continuing to hold the property in care and maintenance status with the expectation that at some point the molybdenum market will support our reopening of the mine,” said Pearson.
Centerra Gold Inc., a gold mining company based in Toronto, announced last year it had struck a deal to purchase Thompson Creek Metals, the former owners of Endako Mine. Centerra Gold completed the US$1.1-billion deal last October, becoming the owner of a 75 per cent interest in the mine.