Photo Friday: Brucejack Mine Sacrifices Glaciers for Gold

Brucejack Mine is a remote and highly productive gold and silver mine in British Columbia, Canada, near Alaska. To reach the site, the 300 permanent workers of the mine have to traverse a 11 kilometer road over the Knipple Glacier. This road was specially constructed to reach the mine. Parts of it pass over a section of the glacier that is rapidly losing mass, requiring the mining firm to make further alterations to the glacier surface to keep the road operational. In addition, transmission lines were built, extending 57 kilometers over the glacier.

 

Brucejack Mine with the Knipple Glacier in the background
Brucejack Mine with the Knipple Glacier in the background (Source: De Smog Canada).

 

In addition, the mine produces large amounts of byproducts known as tailings. These are largely in the form of finely ground powder, with high mineral content. It is very challenging to build stable ponds to store these materials in a remote region with changing hydrology, and the risks are increased by the large size of the tailing ponds at Brucejack Mine.

 

Operation Facility of Brucejack Mine (Source: Resource Works/Twitter)
Operation Facility of Brucejack Mine (Source: Resource Works/Twitter).

 

Currently operational, the mine’s owner, Pretium Resources, announced plans to ramp up operations just two months ago. However, the mine has faced criticism for lower than expected mine grades and flaws in its development plan, causing a fall in its share prices by over 20 percent since the announcement in January 2018.

 

Changes in Share Prices for Pretium Resources over the last 3 months (Source: New York Stocks Exchange)
Changes in Share Prices for Pretium Resources over the last 3 months (Source: New York Stocks Exchange).

 

Overall, mining activities are still on the growth in British Columbia where plans are in order to develop another mine near Brucejack at Red Mountain, with continued expansion of mine growth along the Alaska border.

 

List of B.C.’s Mines along the Alaska Border (Source: DeSmog Canada)
List of B.C.’s Mines along the Alaska Border (Source: DeSmog Canada).

 

Mining near glacier environments has long been criticized for the excavation of glaciers to construct the mine and relevant infrastructure.

 

Image of Mining Truck on the Glacier Highway en route to Brucejack Mine (Source: Nolan/Instagram)
Image of a mining truck on the Glacier Highway en route to Brucejack Mine (Source: Nolan/Instagram).