Nyrstar is re-starting operations at the Myra Falls Mine after a 20-month operational suspension.
Once the mine, located in Strathcona Park approximately 90 km southwest of Campbell River, is running at full capacity, the restart will create more than 375 local jobs, according to the news release. However, it will be a few years before the mine is running at full capacity, said Randy McMahon, general manager.
“The intention is, when we restart this mine, it has to be sustainable and continue to provide very good jobs,” McMahon said. “But we have to optimize our technical plans and move to best practice to ensure that our cost structure can be sustained during the low cycles of the market.”
The mine shut down operations in April of 2015, but McMahon said a crew of around 50 employees has been on site treating water from the tailings dams, doing maintenance work and bettering the environmental management systems.
In October of 2016 Nyrstar was fined for spilling untreated acidic wash into Myra Creek in 2014.
McMahon said some of the environmental management projects they have implemented during the operations suspension include increasing surge capacity to better manage heavy rainfall, doing maintenance on a tailings facility dam and creating water diversions in order to redirect the fresh water coming off the mountains away from the mine.
The first step to resuming operations is implementing the return to work plan and repairing infrastructure. Once the basics, like the fire suppression system, are up and running, people will be brought in to do the next round of repairs.
“There’s infrastructure and equipment underground that needs to be fixed before we can actually start mining,” McMahon said. “There’s a lot of work in our mill that needs to be fixed before we can start milling. So it is a sequence of events.”
Nyrstar is also looking into replacing some of the equipment.
“We have a mining fleet that there are pieces that are over 30 years old and have been poorly maintained, so we are looking at a new mining fleet,” McMahon said.
As well as the new machinery, McMahon said the company has spent a lot of time looking at best practices and preventative maintenance techniques.
“We want to have a mine that is sustainable and is profitable not only during the good times but is profitable during the leaner times of the cycle,” he explained.
Nyrstar is planning to have all operations active again in the beginning of 2018.
“As we fix things up we redevelop the mine, we’ll be opening up new areas, getting back into areas we were in before,” McMahon said. “We need to do more development to change some of the mining methods and that’s why it will take a period of a few years to get to the full potential where we are actually mining everything we want to mine.”
As the operations start up, a schedule of when Nyrstar is going to call people back to work will be implemented.
“We will be calling back our unionized employees,” McMahon said.
Last month, almost 80 per cent of Unifor Local Union 3019 members voted to ratify a new contract with Nyrstar.
“Our members are pleased to have an opportunity to return to work,” said union president John Humphrey in a news release. “Our goal now is to work together to achieve a successful restart to mining and milling operations.”
The restart of the mining operations was conditionally approved earlier this year.