February 2012

Huckleberry goes shopping

Extension plan means new equipment needed

By Peter Diekmeyer

Purchasing staff at the Huckleberry Mine have been busy, following formal board approval for a project that will extend extraction work at the copper deposit until 2021. According to company officials, close to $25 million will be spent on equipment alone.

“We’re buying six haul trucks, two bulldozers, one mining surface drill, two maintenance graders, an excavator and numerous other tools,” said Randall Thompson, the mine’s vicepresident of operations. “The facility already has excellent infrastructure, serviced through a tri-funded log-hauling road and highway network, so few changes will have to be made on that score.”

Huckleberry Mines Limited, which is co-owned by Imperial Metals and a consortium of Japanese companies, produces copper and accessory gold and silver. The facility has been in operation since 1997. Current output is about 16,000 tonnes per day, drawn from porphyry copper-molybdenum deposits located on southern slopes of Huckleberry Mountain, 123 kilometres southwest of Houston in resource-rich central British Columbia.

The company’s main zone optimization plan details the development of a mineral reserve that is roughly located beneath and slightly outside the existing open pit. The company projects an average of 16,000 to 18,000 tonnes of copper will be produced annually between 2011 and 2021. Production will gradually tail off over the final two years of the mine as it mills low-grade stockpiles.

Key to the main zone optimization plan will be construction of a new tailings management facility, which will kick off in May. The new location will store mined waste rock that had been accumulating in an older pit, as well as mill tailings resulting from the mine extension. The initial starter tailings dam construction, which will be done using waste rock from around the mine site, is expected to take about 24 months. However, its height will be raised several times during subsequent years.

According to the company’s technical report on mine operations, the tailings management facility, which is the third that will be built as part of the Huckleberry Mines operation, is scheduled to begin receiving waste rock in 2013. The dam itself will be a zoned earth, cyclone non-acid-generating sand and rock-fill embankment news that will eventually extend to a final crest elevation of 995 metres.

The Huckleberry extension, which will extend the mine’s life by seven years, will preserve 230 full-time and 30 contract positions and will create another 50 new jobs, said company officials.

According to Thompson, the company’s employees and those who live in the adjoining region will be among the biggest winners stemming from the extension announcement. “Most of the people who work at the mine come from the area and have stuck with us throughout, even during lean times,” noted Thompson. “They are thus naturally proud and more excited than anybody that they will have some job security during coming years, barring a shift in market demand. The First Nations located in the area are supportive as there will be a positive impact to the surrounding communities.”

Huckleberry Mines is expected to spend close to $254.4 million on wages and benefits over the project’s life cycle, as well as additional amounts on contractors. Total spending will also include $119 million in new acquisitions and $82 million in new construction.
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