British Columbia

Proposed $1.8B mining project for Central B.C. gets environmental approval

The project could create up to 1,500 jobs during construction, a statement from the federal government read. The approval comes with 172 conditions that must be met during the mine's construction and operation to reduce or eliminate any harm that could be done to the environment.

Project could create up to 1,500 jobs during construction, ministry says

Cleaver Lake, approximately 60 kilometres southwest of Vanderhoof. A proposed gold and silver open-pit mine project in the area has received approval from the federal environment ministry. (Dan Brooks)

The federal environment ministry has greenlit a proposed $1.8 billion mining project in Central B.C.

On Tuesday, the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change announced its approval of the proposed Blackwater Gold project "following a thorough and science-based environmental assessment process."

The announcement means an open-pit gold and silver mine could be built and operated about 110 kilometres southwest of Vanderhoof, B.C., several hours drive from Prince George. 

Investment decision not yet made on 1.8B mine

But environmental approval from B.C. is still pending.

And Blackwater Gold, owned by New Gold,  said an investment decision hasn't yet been made. 

The federal approval comes with 172 conditions the company must meet during the mine's construction and operation to reduce or eliminate any harm that could be done to the environment.

The conditions, according to the ministry, protect wetlands, caribou, fish and fish habitat, migratory birds, the current use of lands and resources by Indigenous peoples as well as physical and cultural heritage and structures.

Mine promises 496 mining and 1,500 construction jobs 

A statement released Tuesday said the project could create up to 1,500 jobs during construction and another 496 during operations over the 17 year life of the project.

"It's great news for the entire region," said Vanderhoof Mayor Gerry Thiessen. He noted one nearby mine is currently closed and the forest industry is in a slump. He said mining jobs at Blackwater will provide good alternative employment. "It certainly diversifies our job market." 

 But one northern environmental campaigner is raising concerns about the mine's environmental cost. .

Questions about mine waste 

."This is going to be an open pit mine and have a very large tailings dam," said Nikki Skuce, with Northern Confluence.. "And the federal approval] seems to be based on economics more than ... some of the social and long term environmental costs "

"This is a pretty low grade gold silver deposit with a 17 year lifespan. And it's going to have large volumes of waste," said Skuce. "You know we're accepting some environmental costs and risks."

But Blackwater Gold stands by its mining project. . 

"The project has really gone through that comprehensive [federal environmental assessment] process and it is being designed with best practices in mind," said Ryan Todd, Blackwater Gold's project director. 

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.