Imperial Metals is dealing with more than just local fallout from the tailings pond breach that flooded and polluted waterways near its Mount Polley gold and copper mine in B.C's Cariboo earlier this month.

'The Mount Polley devastation has really changed things.'- Anita McPhee, former Tahltan Central Council president

The Vancouver-based mining company is not only issuing layoff notices this week at Mount Polley — it is also facing local opposition from First Nations groups over its two other principal mine properties in B.C: the Ruddock Creek lead and zinc property, in which it has a 50 per cent stake, and at the in-development Red Chris copper and gold property in B.C.'s Cassiar country.

At the Ruddock Creek mine site, 155 kilometres northeast of Kamloops, the Neskonlith Indian Band announced Wednesday it would be issuing an eviction notice to the mining company for exploratory work it is conducting.

"We don't want them in our watershed above our communities here," said Chief Judy Wilson.

The lead-zinc mine, which is in the pre-application phase of the provincial environmental assessment process, is located at the headwaters of the Adams River, a sacred area to the Secwepemc people.

Wilson, who was attending a conference of chiefs in Richmond Thursday morning, delivered the eviction notice in person to Imperial Metals in its downtown Vancouver office at 3 p.m. PT Thursday.

Ruddock Creek mine exploratory work - Imperial Metals

A company photo shows exploratory work being conducted in the area of the proposed Ruddock Creek lead-zinc mine site north of Kamloops, B.C. (Imperial Metals)

Bennett, Kynoch visit Red Chris blockade

Further north, approximately 80 kilometres south of Dease Lake, protesters from the Tahltan Nation entered into the sixth full day of a blockade of the Red Chris gold and copper property.

Rhoda Quock, spokesperson for the protest group, which calls itself the Klabona Keepers, said the accident at Mount Polley spurred locals to action to protect the environment near this second gold and copper project.

Klabona Keepers blockade - Red Chris mine access road

A group of protesters calling themselves the Klabona Keepers began blockading the road to Imperial Metals' Red Chris mine site south of Iskut, B.C., on Aug. 8. (Klabona Keepers/Facebook)

“We are very concerned and disturbed about the tailings pond spill at Mount Polley. We see no other alternative at the moment but to have all activity stop at Red Chris until we are certain that we can proceed safely," she said in a written statement.

According to the Klabona Keepers, the Red Chris tailings pond was built on a fish-bearing lake at the headwaters of the Stikine River.

Former Tahltan Central Council president Anita McPhee said she and her members were told by Imperial Metals that the design of the tailings pond at Red Chris is virtually identical to the design of Mount Polley's pond, which has failed.

She says the government must step forward to ensure the Red Chris project won't end in an ecological catastrophe.

“Until the government can commit in writing to environmental standards set by the Tahltan people, then this mine cannot proceed as it stands," McPhee said. "The Mount Polley devastation has really changed things."

Imperial Metals Red Chris tailings pond area

A photo shows the excavation of the tailings impoundment area at Imperial Metals' Red Chris gold and copper property in northern B.C. A Tahltan spokesperson said the design of the pond is the same as that of the tailings pond that failed at Imperial's Mount Polley gold and copper mine. (Imperial Metals)

Quock and McPhee said that B.C. Minister of Energy and Mines Bill Bennett and Imperial Metals president Brian Kynoch both visited the blockade on Highway 37, south of Iskut, on Wednesday.

Bennett and Kynoch reportedly committed to stopping development at the Red Chris Mine until it was deemed safe to proceed, and also committed to an independent third-party review of the mine plan.

Quock vowed the blockade would continue until such a time as the provincial government and the mine's operator can demonstrate exactly what their commitments are to ensuring the safety the environment.

Imperial Metals' B.C. properties
Property/mine Region Primary metals Status
Mount Polley Cariboo copper and gold operational/cleanup
Red Chris Cassiar copper and gold in development
Ruddock Creek* Central Interior zinc and lead exploratory

* 50 per cent stake

Source: ImperialMetals.com

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story referred to Anita McPhee as the president of the Tahltan Tribal Council. She is, in fact, a former president of the Tahltan Central Council.
    Aug 15, 2014 8:51 AM PT
With files from the CBC's Luke Brocki and Rhiannon Coppin