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B.C. red tape forces layoffs at Girbraltar mine

Moving mine shovel from one pit to another now requires consultation with government staff, First Nations, which has so far taken nearly a year
The Gibraltar mine between Williams Lake and Quesne, B.C., employs 700 workers. | Taseko

Taseko Mines Ltd. says it is being forced to lay off 34 workers at its Gibraltar mine due to bureaucratic inertia.

A spokesman for the company says 11 months have gone by since the company first informed the government of its plans to move a mine shovel from one pit to an older adjacent pit, and it still hasn’t gotten permission.

“These layoffs did not have to happen,” said Taseko spokesman Brian Battison. “There’s no need for them to be laid off, if government would just do its job.”

The copper mine, located about halfway between Williams Lake and Quesnel, employs 700 workers. One crew of 34 will be laid off April 27, however, because there will be nothing for them to do.

In May 2020, Taseko wrote the ministry a notice of departure informing it of its plans to resume mining at an old adjacent pit that has not been mined for decades. That involves moving a mine shovel, trucks and other related equipment from one pit to the other.

But Battison said the rules have apparently changed. Simply moving equipment on the mine site from one pit to another now requires an amendment to its mine permit, and that involves endless consultations.

“It’s something new under the NDP government,” Battison said. “This is a simple, straight forward thing. We’ve been at this now for over 11 months.

“This government and its consultation requirement – it’s got to consult with its staff, it’s got to consult with other departments perhaps, it’s got to consult with First Nations.”

Stakeholders, including local First Nations, are given 60 days to respond to the permit amendment application, but can ask for another 60 days to respond, Battison said. The process just drags on.

“We’re entering a world where decisions are only talked about and consulted about but rarely actually do decisions get made,” Battison said. “It’s just a regulatory bureaucratic failure by government.”

“It’s a serious and systemic problem that exists and is growing.”

In a written statement to BIV news, the mines minister, Bruce Ralston, said he was concerned about the layoffs.

 "I am very concerned to hear that workers may be laid off from their positions at the Gibraltar Mine and hope that the situation can be resolved with minimal impacts," he said. "We will do everything we can to support the workers, their families, and the community during this difficult time.

“I understand that the province is consulting on these permit changes and a 30-day extension was recently granted until May 7 to allow time for further consultation.

“We are working diligently to see this resolved as quickly as possible. Our government’s priority is to ensure all voices are heard during the consultation process and that projects are processed in a fair and timely manner.”