Tailings monitoring continues while mine operations suspended

A shuttered Nyrstar Myra Falls mine does not pose a threat to the city’s drinking water, according to the province’s minister of energy and mines.

Bill Bennett, B.C. minister of energy and mines, assured city council in a letter that water quality is still being tested on a consistent basis despite the temporary closure of the Myra Falls mine and the layoff of workers.

Bennett was responding to concerns conveyed by council last month in a letter to the minister.

“Despite the mine being on care and maintenance, I wish to assure you that Myra Falls continues to maintain the same capacity of staff responsible for oversight of the tailings storage facilities,” Bennett wrote. “Nyrstar’s engineering consultants have a daily presence on site and additional staff have recently been hired to oversee water management at the site, including the tailings facilities.

“Nyrstar’s environmental staff have also been maintained at the same level as prior to layoffs to fulfill monitoring requirements,” Bennett added.

Because the mine is located within the city’s drinking watershed, Coun. Charlie Cornfield questioned recently whether monitoring of the mine tailings dams would still be kept up and facilities still operated to prevent pollution to the community’s drinking water supply.

Cornfield had put forward a motion at the Feb. 9 council meeting to write a letter to Bennett looking for assurance from the province that all actions would be taken to ensure the safety of the drinking water supply while operations at the mine are down.

“The purpose of this one is it’s part of our drinking water supply and it’s about getting our position officially on record about being concerned about what happens to our drinking water,” Cornfield said at the Feb. 9 council meeting. “It’s important we register our position.”

Bennett responded to those concerns March 11, assuring council that the only capital investments deferred at the mine are related to future production.

“Nyrstar continues to implement the needed capital investment for water management upgrades for the tailings facilities,” Bennett wrote. “They are also continuing with additional investigations and work related to improving their tailings facilities.”

Cornfield, at the March 21 council meeting, said he was satisfied with Bennett’s response.

“I was pleased to read the letter from the minister,” Cornfield said. “I think it covered off a lot of my concerns, and I know the community’s concerns here, about what happens during this changing stage of the mine.”