Huckleberry Mines wins award for mine reclamation

by Peter Caulfield
An airfield that was reclaimed.

An airfield that was reclaimed. — Photo courtesy Huckleberry Mines Limited

Huckleberry Mines Limited recently won an award in the metal mine reclamation category from the British Columbia Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation (TRCR).

Huckleberry won the award for its habitat compensation work in a successful remediation of fishways (using fish ladders) in a local creek in the vicinity of the Huckleberry copper mine, located approximately 100 kilometres south of Houston, British Columbia.

Huckleberry was also recognized for engaging local aboriginal communities in its mine reclamation planning.

Restoration completed using fish ladders in a creek in the vicinity of the Huckleberry copper mine.

Restoration completed using fish ladders in a creek in the vicinity of the Huckleberry copper mine. — Photo courtesy Huckleberry Mines Limited

“The story about the award is interesting for a number of reasons,”  said Marke Wong, Huckleberry Mines' environment and community affairs manager. “First, the project involved the restoration of a fishway that had failed due to natural causes, but we restored it and rebuilt it even better. Second, we were nominated by First Nation partners who only a few years ago had been picketing our access road and threatening to take down our power line.”

Since that inauspicious beginning, Huckleberry has signed five agreements with five different First Nations organizations and has put in place contracts with other First Nations groups.  

A hillside following hydroseeding

A hillside following hydroseeding. — Photo courtesy Huckleberry Mines Limited

“When the fishways were restored, we worked with environmental monitoring assistants from our community partners to monitor and assess the success of the work,” said Wong.  “This level of engagement has been a win-win for both Huckleberry and our community partners.”

Wong said the main environmental risks at Huckleberry Mine are water quality and the loss of fish and wildlife habitat.

“But these risks are mitigated by our environmental program,” Wong said.

The extensive program has many components. In addition to environmental monitoring and reporting and the fish compensation program, they include soil conservation, acid rock drainage monitoring, native seed collection and vegetation test plots.

Huckleberry Mines began its fisheries compensation program in 1996 to offset expected losses of fish habitat caused by mine development. The goal of the program was to allow fish to swim upstream to a headwater pond approximately 425 metres upstream.

Compensation structures in the creek consisted of three fishways made up of log steps lined with permeable geotextile and anchored with rock fill. 

Remedial work was undertaken to re-establish upstream fish passage for juvenile and adult rainbow trout. Fishways were designed to be more robust, to function over a range of flows and to meet the specific requirements of migrating rainbow trout.

On land, Huckleberry Mines began conducting native seed re-vegetation trials and test plots in 2005. Results of the trials have shown that self-regenerative vegetative covers can be re-established on the company's decommissioned tailings facilities.

The company is also examining candidate woody species for planting, and developing a soil conservation plan to stockpile and supplement sufficient suitable material for reclamation and final closure.

Huckleberry's program has been helped because the ore that the company mines and the way the ore is processed are relatively clean.

“The ore contains few of the characteristically toxic components that are often associated with metal mining,” said Wong.

Huckleberry Mines Ltd., which owns Huckleberry Mine, is itself owned 50 per cent by Imperial Metals Corporation of Vancouver and 50 percent by a Japanese consortium including Mitsubishi Materials Corporation, Dowa Mining Co. Ltd. and Furukawa Co.

The mine, which produces copper, molybdenum, gold and silver, started production in October 1997.

Production in 2014 totaled 34 million pounds of copper; 2,202 ounces of gold; and 183,218 ounces of silver.

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