The Bralorne Gold Mine is still unable to meet the required freeboard level in its tailings pond and remains closed because of that.
The provincial Ministry of Energy and Mines said last week the underground mine, located 130 kilometres west of Lillooet, cannot meet the required freeboard level without resorting to pumping water from the pond. The mine is required to meet a one-metre freeboard differential without pumping. Freeboard refers to the difference at the top of the tailings pond, compared to the lowest elevation at the dam crest.
Ministry of Energy and Mines spokesperson David Haslam said last week that the Ministry of Environment has issued an extension so the company can continue to discharge excess water until June 30 in order to maintain freeboard. The mine’s earlier discharge permit was in effect until Mar. 31, said Haslam. The permit allowed the mining company to pump untreated water into Cadwallader Creek.
“Enhanced environmental monitoring will remain in place during the extension,” said Haslam.
He told the News the mining company is currently in the process of applying to raise the dam height, which will address the freeboard concerns.
“This permit amendment application is being reviewed by Ministry of Energy and Mines permitting staff and is expected to be submitted to statutory decision makers for decision this month,” added Haslam.
On its website, Bralorne’s owner Avino Silver & Gold Mine said, “As a result of unseasonably high temperatures and rainfall in December 2014, management decided to put the mill on care and maintenance until the tailings dam can be raised this spring.”
In the interim, Avino says extensive exploration drilling is ongoing.
“Also during this period, maintenance will be conducted on the mill and underground rail. Underground development in anticipation of the mill restart will also be ongoing. Additionally, two new scoop trams have been ordered and are expected to arrive in time for the mill's reopening, and the search is underway for a new surface loader.”
Avino said long term planning is also underway with independent engineering firms SNC Lavalin and Entech Mining. Should exploration drilling be successful, Avino is looking to develop a larger multi-stage, multi-year mine plan to increase gold resources.
The Bralorne Mine has operated under trial production status since 2010 at 100 tons per day and maintained that rate until the recent shutdown. Despite steady but limited gold production – including an estimated 3,482 ounces in fiscal 2014 – Avino says Bralorne remains in the exploration and evaluation stage.
The Bralorne gold camp represents one of Canada's most prolific mining operations. From 1928 to 1971, the Bralorne and nearby Pioneer and King mines produced 4.15 million ounces of gold from 7.9 million tons of ore.