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B.C., Washington pitch in to buy out copper, gold deposit near Hope

Imperial Metals surrenders mine claims established before parks
Salmon return after restoration work on Hazeltine Creek to repair the damage from the 2014 breach of Mount Polley Mine’s tailings dam. Imperial Metals is working to restart Mount Polley and Huckleberry mine near Houston as world demand for copper is expected to rise with electrification. (Gabriel Holmes/Williams Lake Tribune)

B.C. and Washington state are each contributing $7 million to buy out mining claims to a pair of copper, silver and gold deposits near Hope that were originally staked before the creation of Manning and Skagit Valley Provincial Parks.

The two parks surround the ore deposit area under the terms of a 1995 deal in which B.C. designated 30,000 hectares as the new Skagit park, part of a major expansion of provincial parks under the previous NDP government. Part of the mineral deposit was left out of the park expansion and has become known as the “donut hole” by an international environmental campaign to stop mining.

Imperial Metals, which took over the Giant Copper mineral claims 37 km east of Hope in 1988, is being paid a total of $24 million, with $5 million provided by the Nature Conservancy of Canada. B.C.’s energy and mines ministry confirmed that B.C. and Washington’s shares are $7 million each.

Another $5 million has been pledged by the Skagit Environmental Endowment Commission, a cross-border agency set up and funded by B.C. and the City of Seattle under the terms of a 1984 treaty between Canada and the U.S. The Ross Lake/Seven Mile Reservoir Treaty is in effect until 2064, and the commission’s mandate is to protect natural, recreational and cultural resources of the Upper Skagit watershed.

Vancouver-based Imperial Metals holds a 30-per-cent stake in the Red Chris copper-gold mine near Iskut in northwest B.C., now majority owned by Australian multinational Newcrest Mining. Imperial is the sole owner of the Mount Polley gold-copper mine near Quesnel and the Huckleberry open-pit copper mine south of Houston, both of which are shut down on care and maintenance as the company prepares to restart them as metal prices rise.

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Imperial president Brian Kynoch said in a statement that Canada’s 2050 net-zero energy and climate goal is driving demand for copper to produce electric vehicles. Imperial Metals also holds mining rights on 23 undeveloped mine exploration properties in B.C.

Kynoch said the Skagit River property is to be added to the 1995 park, and “as a company that is responsive to the aspirations of Indigenous communities, government and neighbours, we support this agreement.”

Mount Polley operations were suspended in May 2019, after extensive remediation work following a 2014 breach of the tailings dam. Mount Polley has since acquired options to adjacent mineral claims expand the operation.


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