Highland Valley Copper Mine

Commodities: Copper (Cu), molybdenum (Mo), and gold (Au)

Location: 17 km west of Logan Lake, and 75 km southwest of Kamloops, BC.

Geology and Type of Deposit: HVighland Valley Copper (HVC) is located in the Intermontane region of the Canadian Cordillera. This ore deposit is a low-grade copper porphyry that occurs in the Late Triassic-Early Jurassic quartz monzonite and diorite phase of the Guichon Batholith. The ore minerals, chalcopyrite, bornite, and molybdenite, are scattered throughout the granitic host and are concentrated in veins.

The Operation: Modern surface mining operations began in 1962 and have continued in several separate mines until present day. HVC is currently the largest base metal mine in Canada. It is owned by the Teck Highland Valley Copper partnership. The mine processes 133,000 tonnes of ore per day. In 2016, HVC produced 129,000 tonnes of copper, and 4,200 lbs. of molybdenum. Based on current rates of production, and on proven and probable reserves, mining will continue at HVC until 2026

Mining Method: Mining is carried out using conventional open pit methods. After blasting the rock is scooped up by electric shovels and loaded onto haul trucks. Ore in the Valley Pit is hauled to one of two crushers located in the pit, while waste rock is hauled out of the pit to the waste rock dump. Ore from the Lornex and Highmont pits is hauled to a crusher located near the mill.

Processing: Crushed ore is transported by covered conveyor belts to the mill. There, the ore is continuously loaded into grinding mills and then into ball mills that pulverize the ore. The pulverized ore is piped as a slurry into froth flotation cells where the sulphide minerals are separated from the waste rock sand (tailings). The mineral concentrate is piped to a second flotation cell where the copper and molybdenum concentrates are separated. Both concentrates pass through thickening tanks before passing through disc filters to remove water. The moist concentrate enters a dryer that removes more water. This dry concentrate is stockpiled before being shipped to market. Tailings from the flotation cells in the mill travel 7 km through 1 m diameter pipes to be deposited in the 10 km long, man-made tailings pond on the valley floor, located west of the Valley Pit.

Markets: Copper concentrate produced at HVC is transported by truck to Ashcroft, BC where it is loaded onto rail cars. The trains transport the concentrate to Vancouver Wharves Terminal in North Vancouver, where it is loaded onto bulk carriers and shipped to smelters in Japan and other countries in Asia. HVC molybdenum concentrate is sold to roasters and trading companies in both Europe and China.

Community and Employment: Highland Valley Copper employs more than 1,100 people. Most employees live in Kamloops, Logan Lake, Cache Creek, Ashcroft, Merritt and Lower Nicola, all within a 60 km radius of the mine.

Environmental Considerations: HVC is located in the Highland River valley surrounded by high hills. It is a cool, dry region covered with Douglas Fir and Lodgepole Pine forests that are mixed with grasslands. Environmental engineers’ work focusses on minimizing mining’s impacts and returning affected areas to a productive state.

The end use reclamation plan includes areas for wildlife habitat, agriculture, mixed agriculture and wildlife, and aquatic habitat. It also includes tree and shrub corridors between wildlife zones to allow animals to cross the mine site, as well as areas for wildlife to browse. The creation of open or semi-open grasslands and water supply for cattle ranching is planned, as is turning decommissioned pits and tailings ponds into recreational fishing areas. Thus far, Trojan Pond, a decommissioned tailings pond, has been reclaimed, and several waste rock dumps have been re-sloped and replanted with grasses, legumes and deciduous and evergreen tree seedlings (> 2 million). For many years, HVC has successfully experimented with the application of biosolids from Vancouver's sewage treatment plants to amend soils and help establish new vegetation on waste rock piles, tailings and other disturbed areas.

HVC also routinely tests surface water and groundwater to determine if waste rock material is creating acidic drainage. Fortunately, the waste rock contains basic minerals (calcium-rich feldspars) that act to neutralize acid generated by the oxidation of the sulphide minerals.