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

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.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19 highlights lack of connectivity in First Nations communities

Many don’t have access required to utilize online platforms, says First Nations Technology Council

Salmon closures announced for Skeena and Nass watersheds

DFO notice expands on May 21 chinook ban throughout Skeena watershed

New traffic lanes for Six Mile west of Burns Lake coming soon

Construction to begin on lane extension and traffic improvement

Chamber names new board for 2020

And emphasizes that Houston is open for business

Houston to host high speed electric vehicle charging station

It will be installed and paid for by BC Hydro

Only four new COVID-19 cases, 228 active across B.C.

Health officials watching as activities ramp up

Feds looking at ways to reunite families amid COVID-19 border restrictions with U.S.

Some families with members of dual-citizenship have become separated due to the pandemic

‘I knew what he wanted’: Kootenay man spends hours in tree as black bear patrols below

Francis Levasseur is no stranger to the outdoors, but a recent run-in with a bear caused quite a scare

COVID cancelled their wedding plans, so they married on a BC mountaintop

Ceremony was live streamed to friends and family around the world

Introducing the West Coast Traveller: A voyage of the mind

Top armchair travel content for Alaska, Yukon, BC, Alberta, Washington, Oregon and California!

Trudeau acknowledges racial unrest in U.S.; ‘We also have work to do in Canada’

‘Anti-black racism, racism, is real; it’s in the United States, but it’s also in Canada,’ Trudeau says

State of Local Emergency declared for Boundary as communities brace for river flooding

Warm weather and heavy rain could cause sections of Kettle River system to swell beyond 2018 levels

Large cruise ships barred from Canadian waters until end of October: Garneau

Last year 140 cruise ships brought more than two million visitors to Canadian ports

Minneapolis cop who knelt on man’s neck charged with murder

Arrest comes after three days of protests, which escalated in violence as demonstrators torched a police precinct

Most Read