Highland Valley Copper Mine Mill Modernization

The 40-year old mill at Highland Valley Copper will be modernized to extend the life of the mill to match the expected mine life. The project is also expected to increase mill throughput by approximately 10% and copper recoveries by approximately 2%.

About This Project

Teck Resources Ltd. is a diversified resource company committed to responsible mining and mineral development with business units focused on copper, steelmaking coal, zinc and energy, and is also a significant producer of specialty metals such as germanium and indium. The company is headquartered in Vancouver, B.C.

For decades, Highland Valley Copper (HVC) and its historical predecessors have made billions in profit from mining a low-grade resource. But it is making investments that are boosting the regional economy today and positioning the mine for longer life.

HVC parent Teck Resources Ltd. is investing more than $600 million at the site for three projects that began last year, including searching its property — including pits mined in the past — for more ore, bodies that could extend the mine’s life past its 2027 expected closure. About $540 million of that sum will be spent on mill optimization, the largest-ever capital investment made at the mine. This summer, the workforce at the mine will swell to nearly 2,000 — 750 contract workers on the project along with HVC’s 1,300 staff. There are about 530 contract workers on the project today, working simultaneously on the mill optimization.

The project is so large the mine uses buses to bring its contracted workforce to the mine from Kamloops, a fleet of white vehicles, which parks in Valleyview when not in use. Those workers and their companies are filling hotels and renting rooms within the community, another spin-off benefit. The mill optimization consists of two projects: a new flotation building along with a new pebble crusher and transfer station. In addition, work is ongoing on a new $58-million tailings line. Fluor Canada, an international engineering firm, did the project design and is responsible for building it.

It has used another firm, JV Driver, to hire and manage the contract workforce. The largest project at the site is the new flotation building. Inside, twenty-one cells — a series of cascading tanks that separate minerals — will replace today’s 257 cells. Along with the pebble crusher and tailings improvements, the investment will make the mine a more efficient producer — all important when mining a low-grade deposit. In addition to improving profitability, the mill optimization is intended as an investment in Highland Valley’s future. One drilling rig sits on top of tailings, while another floats — aided by stilts — atop the lake that formed in the open pit. A third rig is on land beside the pit. All three are drilling to prove additional ore exists that can feed the mine, made more efficient from the modernization.

Teck is spending about $25 million this year on exploration, by far the largest of its drilling programs. HVC’s spending this year is doing more than providing paycheques, it’s training workers and giving opportunities for new businesses. Nicola Valley company SCS Drilling is one of the many contractors on the site this year. The company is First Nations owned and employs a number of aboriginal Canadians.

Highland Valley president Chris Dechert said while the mine is attempting to steer work toward local firms, those contractors have to meet its strict code of safety. Spence Coutlee’s drilling company proved itself during a trial on site and is now a mainstay of the $25-million drilling program.

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