The proposed construction of an open pit mine near Rossland has left the city’s mayor with many concerns and questions.
West High Yield (WHY) Resources Ltd. announced that it commissioned a pre-feasibility study and submitted an amended joint Mines Act-Environmental Management Act permit application to the B.C. Ministry of Mines on Feb. 14 and 15, respectively, for the development and operation of its Record Ridge Industrial Mineral Mine Project south of Rossland.
Rossland mayor Kathy Moore hadn’t met with WHY representatives for several years and was surprised to hear about the mine’s progress in a CBC interview with WHY president and CEO Frank Marasco Jr. on March 16.
“The interview with the proponent implied they were ready, with shovels poised, to start digging – or in this case, start blasting,” said Moore.
“I do not believe this is the case as I am unaware that the requisite permissions and permits have been granted by the province.”
WHY owns 8,900 hectares of undersurface mineral rights at Record Ridge, about eight kilometres north of the U.S.-Canada Border, and has done extensive mineral analyses indicating significant deposits of magnesium, nickle and silica, as well as gold and iron-ore. WHY does not currently have surface rights, with the exception of access and disturbance agreements with the BC government for magnesium exploration.
Marasco told the Rossland News that the company last met with council and various stakeholders back in 2016 and 2018. However, the company renewed consultation earlier this month, meeting with 15 various government representatives, consultants, and company personnel, which included representation from the council of Rossland.
“Recent engagement activities and project progress has been hampered due to the impact of the COVID pandemic,” said Marasco. “We have been on this project for 19 years this October to get to the permit stage, along with community and stakeholders’ support.”
Moore confirmed Coun. Stewart Spooner attended the meeting, and said additional information is needed.
“There are still plenty of unknowns and I haven’t heard an update on what sort of public consultation will be offered,” said Moore.
“There definitely needs to be some.
“I can’t say anything I heard has allayed concerns for our community but I am confident more information will be forthcoming.”
According to a WHY document, the planned mine will be a conventional truck and shovel open pit operation that includes drilling, blasting, loading and hauling of mineralized ore.
There will be primary and secondary crushing on-site, before being loaded to the processing facility, whose location has yet to be determined but may be in Trail.
The mine will include the open pit and adjacent waste rock storage facility, an access road from the Cascade Highway to the mine, a soil stockpile, a level pad for primary and secondary crushing, a maintenance pad, and an office building.
“The critical minerals that the company is seeking to mine and further process are critical input products in meeting the global transition to net-zero carbon emissions targets and the well-being of the planet and the human race,” said Marasco.
Moore has yet to see any environmental studies done on the project and is concerned about the mine’s potential impact.
“This site is part of the Columbia River drainage area which means whatever flows downstream ends up in the U.S., thus this is a transboundary project,” said Moore.
“It is also important to note that this is unceded territory of the Sinixt peoples. I have no idea if they have been consulted either.
“There needs to be a fulsome discussion and a thorough reporting about who has been contacted and the results of those consultations. Any concerns need to be properly addressed.”
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) did respond to a request for information, saying: “It’s most likely that EPA would not have much involvement in this project, unless or until there is work proposed in Waters of the U.S.”
The direct benefits of the nearby operation for Rossland will be significant says Marasco, pointing to sustainable job creation, a reliable generator of cash flow and an opportunity to secure markets for magnesium and silica. There are hundreds of applications for magnesium in the pharmaceutical, agriculture, automotive, aerospace, building and energy industries. However, Moore has doubts.
“It’s hard to see the immediate benefits, but at this point, much easier to see the burdens such as increased traffic, potential environmental degradation as well as compromising our recreational values.”
The presence of an open pit mine may also adversely affect tourism, as well as the collective psyche of what makes Rossland one of the most active outdoor communities in the province.
“Rossland values our recreation amenities and we strive to protect our environment,” said Moore. “I understand this project would impact the epic Seven Summits Trail that currently attracts tourists from all over the world. I don’t know if the trail would have to be relocated or not, but in any case, there would be an impact.
“I have heard, but don’t know, that the area encompasses a delicate and rare grassland that would be destroyed. These are concerns that need to be addressed.”
Marasco says the recent amended permit application will lead to more consultation with residents, and an open and honest discussion about the project.
“The company looks forward to the upcoming community engagement opportunities to share information and receive feedback about the planned mine construction, and operation and that steps are being taken for responsible stewardship to protect the environment and to identify and mitigate the potential environmental impact.”
For Moore, she is cautious, but hopes her queries will be answered and the community’s concerns diminished.
“Without knowing more about it, I think we should all have reservations.”