Mt. Milligan gets approvals

The Mt. Milligan Mine has been approved for the construction of a permanent camp on site and moving the ore load-out to Mackenzie.

The Mt. Milligan Mine has been approved for the construction of a permanent camp on site and moving the ore load-out to Mackenzie.

The Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) issued the amendments on March 5 which will allow for approval of both requested amendments to the environmental assessment certificate (EAC) for Mt. Milligan, including a 450-person camp at the mine site for the life of the mine.

“We’re very happy to have concluded the process and to have been given the approval to build the permanent operations camp,” said Jocelyn Fraser, director of corporate responsibility for Thompson Creek Metals.

The original EAC gave the mine approval for a camp only during the construction  phase and the ore load-out facility was originally planned and approved for the industrial area north of Fort St. James.

The operations camp will be restricted to four hectares in size, and will allow for the workers to be housed on site during their shift while the mine is in operation.

Community information sessions held during the construction phase had previously stated there would be no camp during operations and shifts would encourage workers to live in communities located near the the mine. Thompson Creek Metals, the company which bought out Terrane Metals, had applied for the amendments on April 16, 2012, citing longer commute times and difficulty in recruiting operational staff as leading to the need for the camp.

“We think the camp will be helpful in allowing us to expand that employment catchment area,” said Fraser, adding some local employees will also likely choose to stay at the camp instead of having to commute each day.

So far, the company has hired 278 of the estimated 450 operations staff needed, 69 who call Mackenzie home, 62 Fort St. James, 34 Prince George, 19 Fraser Lake and five from Burns Lake.

The reasons the company cited for the move of the load-out facility included the existence of a Kemess load-out in Mackenzie which is currently not being used, the ability to stay off public roads and the possibility to haul 100 per cent axle weight year-round to Mackenzie.

Thompson Creek has not yet completed negotiating a lease with Kemess, but the approval includes the potential for the construction of a new load out near the Kemess facility.

The District of Fort St. James had made detailed submissions to the Environmental Assessment Office regarding the proposed changes to the EAC, some of which were addressed in part of the approved amendments, some of which were not.

“Some of our concerns were deemed to be outside the amendment,” said Economic Development Officer Emily Colombo who worked on the submission to the EAO.

One of the concerns the District of Fort St. James cited was the impact the potential additional traffic could have on local infrastructure if the majority of out-of-town employees are driving in or out each week to catch the bus into camp.

This concern was addressed through the designation of a permanent representative from Mt. Milligan on the Fort St. James Transportation Committee.

In addition, the District cited concerns the camp could create social impacts on the workers and the area communities.

The conditions for the amendment included the creation of a Social Effects Monitoring and Adaptive Management Plan (SE Plan) by July 1, 2013.

The plan must include ways to monitor and assess possible negative social effects on workers and nearby communities and ways to address these effects.

Pressures on community services, infrastructure, substance abuse and family and community safety must all be looked at.

The conditions for the camp include the provision workers must have the option to commute from Mackenzie or Fort St. James and workers cannot engage in hunting, fishing or gathering activities while residing at the camp and must not have recreational vehicles located at or near the camp either.

Requests for evidence of the predicted $4.1 million in municipal tax revenue during mine construction, to break out contract opportunities for camp construction, and a request to discuss ways municipalities could maximize local benefit from the project were deemed outside the scope of the EAO.

Colombo said she learned a lot from the process about needing to separate impacts from benefits, because when communities are weighing out impacts versus benefits for these projects in the early stages, they need to realize benefits are not promises and may not materialize in the way first expected.

Both Mayor Rob MacDougall and Nak’azdli Chief Fred Sam did not respond to interview requests prior to press time.