Mine will be required to restore area, but details not yet required

The Ajax File: All That Glitters - Part 3 of 5

Not much is being said yet about KGHM Ajax's plans for the Jacko Lake grasslands after the end of the proposed Ajax mine's 23-year life.

While the mining company will be required to restore the area, its plans for how it will do so are not yet required by government regulators.

"Timing and duration of closure and reclamation activities will be determined when the detailed reclamation plan is submitted as part of the B.C. Mines Act permit application," according to a consultant's report prepared for the company.

KGHM Ajax officials chose not to speak to The Daily News about environmental issues.

Frank Amon, a retired mine engineer and former manager at Highland Valley Copper, said mining regulations require companies to restore disturbed lands to the same level of productivity as before mining got underway.

That does not mean areas must be restored to the same kinds of habitat they were before, he noted. The open pit, for example, will never be anything but a pit, although if it fills with water and becomes a lake, could achieve the level of natural productivity contemplated by the regulations.

Waste dumps can be levelled off, resoiled and converted into hayfields, he added. Roads can be decommissioned and areas can be replanted with trees.

"It will be up to the environmental agencies to decide whether (the company's) plans are doable," he said. "Before they are issued a ticket, they will have to demonstrate they have a viable plan to reclaim the area."

The company must also post a bond in order to ensure the reclamation work gets done. For a project like this, Amon estimates the required bond could exceed $40 million. The bonds are designed to prevent companies from leaving the area after an ore body is depleted, leaving a mess behind.

Amon said he doubts that will be an issue with this company, however. His research suggests the consortium, partly owned by the Polish government, will be a responsible corporate citizen.

While their production schedule and timelines to get started seem overly aggressive, Amon said overall KGHM Ajax's plan seems possible, based on what is known so far.

"I would say they have a 75 per cent chance of getting approval," he said.

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