Major investments coming to Huckleberry Mine

Huckleberry Mine will see more than $100 million in spending this year as workers prepare to dig deep and extend the mine’s life to 2021.

Bryan Deagle

Bryan Deagle

Huckleberry Mine will see more than $100 million in spending this year as workers prepare to dig deep and extend the mine’s life to 2021.

Speaking Thursday to the Houston Chamber of Commerce, Vice General Manager Bryan Deagle said Huckleberry’s 2012 budget will cover everything from a new tailings dam to major equipment and camp upgrades.

“It’s a huge investment by our ownership,” Deagle said Owners Imperial Metals and the Japan Group are banking on the long-term, he added, noting that this year’s $100-million capital plan exceeds the mine’s annual revenues.

Huckleberry’s extension plan got a green light in November, when a review committee chaired by the B.C. Ministry of Mines permitted the company to log some 70,000 cubic metres of timber and build a new tailings pond.

That timber contract went to loggers at Tahtsa Timber and to the Houston Forest Products sawmill, Deagle said.

Deagle said several earthworks companies have already bid on the contract to build a clay and rock dam for Huckleberry’s new tailings pond.

“We want to take time to make sure we do everything right,” he added, noting Huckleberry’s strong record on water management and the tough lessons learned from leaching at older projects like Equity Mine.

“I don’t think there was a great understanding in those years about ARD [acid rock drainage] and other issues,” he said. “Right off the bat, we committed to preventing issues like that.”

Aside from the new tailings pond and a few new camp buildings, Deagle said the mine site will basically stay the same size—about 4 km long and 2.5 km wide.

“The operation is not expanding. It’s extending its life,” said Deagle.

Essentially, Deagle said the plan is not to dig a new pits but to simply widen and deepen the “bowl” of an older pit to get at lower-grade ore that wasn’t profitable until copper, silver and gold prices hit their current highs.

All that extra work means Huckleberry will need new equipment and new workers.

“Our employee numbers are going to climb from about 230 to 290,” said Deagle.

Wendy Curtis, Huckleberry’s human resources manager, said the company has already received hundreds of job applications.

“One of our mandates is to hire local,” Curtis said. “And local for us is anywhere from Smithers to Burns Lake.”

About forty per cent of Huckleberry staff live in Smithers or Telkwa. Roughly a third live in Houston or Granisle.

Only seven per cent of Huckleberry staff currently live in Burns Lake, but Curtis said she’s received many applications from residents there after a January explosion and fire destroyed the town’s sawmill and main employer.

To house the new workers, who typically work four days on, four days off, Deagle said Huckleberry is building a new camp and renovating its old one.

“We’ve got a camp that’s been out there for 15 years,” he said. “It needs upgrades.”

One of those upgrades is a land-based Telus line that will boost internet access to Huckleberry and to the several logging and exploration companies working along that 120-km stretch south of Houston.

Until now, Deagle said Huckleberry workers have had to rely on satellite communications that have limited bandwidth.

While he looks forward to the upgraded camp, Deagle is clearly most excited by the new equipment that is now rolling up to Huckleberry. “It’s like going down to Sullivan’s and buying a new truck,” he said, laughing. “The guys are just drooling.”

Along with six new 150-ton Caterpillar trucks and a front-shovel excavator, Deagle said operators are already getting to use a new grater equipped with ergonomic seats and dual joysticks. New operators will train on-site using simulators provided by Finning.

All the new equipment is a big change for Huckleberry, which was immediately saddled by low copper prices and had to run a bare-bones setup when Deagle first started back in 1996.

“It’s been quite a ride for everybody at the mine,” he said.

 

Just Posted

Jill Mackenzie carefully replaces books on the shelves at the Houston Public Library. (Angelique Houlihan photo)
District approves annual library grant

Craft kits featured for summer reading club

The tradition of Houston Christian School grads giving Bibles to incoming kindergarten students will take place this year, but outdoors and in a modified fashion. (File photo)
Houston Christian School grad day is June 24

Grads themselves have set tone for the day, says teacher

Scott Richmond will be starting as the new vice principal for HSS and TSE. (Submitted/Houston Today)
Houston gets a new vice principal

Scott Richmond takes over from Dwayne Anderson who moved to Smithers

A Pacific Salmon Foundation grant of $3,000 is going towards the tree plantations. (Cindy Verbeek photo/Houston Today)
550 trees planted in Houston through A Rocha

Houston Christian School students and volunteers help with the tree planting

Currently the Houston station has 16 paramedics, two ambulances and one community paramedic vehicle. (File photo)
Retirement of longtime paramedics worries Houston community

“No loss of service,” assures BC Emergency Health Services

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

Patrick O’Brien, a 75-year-old fisherman, went missing near Port Angeles Thursday evening. (Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard)
Search for lost fisherman near Victoria suspended, U.S. Coast Guard says

The 75-year-old man was reported missing Thursday evening

Most Read