The B.C. government has issued a conditional permit allowing the Mount Polley mine to reopen with restrictions.

Mines Minister Bill Bennett said Thursday the permit is the first of three steps the mine must take before it can be authorized to operate fully.

"Our choice was do we wait for them for a year to do absolutely everything that shows that they have a long-term plan, or do we let them operate for a few months and get people working again," said Bennett.

He said the mine must submit a long-term water treatment and discharge plan to the government by next June.

The tailings dam at the central B.C. mine breached last August, and 24 million cubic metres of mine waste and water gushed into area lakes and waterways.

Production likely to begin next month

An independent government-ordered report concluded the spill was caused by poor dam design, which didn't account for drainage and erosion failures associated with glacial till beneath the pond.

The company estimates it will take about 30 days before it can start production with up to 220 workers on site.

Imperial Metals Corp. Vice-President Steve Robertson said he expects Mount Polley Mine Corp. to immediately recall up to 30 workers.

He said the conditional permit fits the company's intention to have Mount Polley operating permanently within a year.

"The strategy here is to be able to do this temporary work plan in order to give us the time to get in place a long-term water management plan and discharge plan," Robertson said.

"We expect to be able to go back to the government in the fall with a proposal for a full-time restart of the mine."

With files from CBC