Imperial Metals (TSX:III) has entered into a memorandum of understanding with British Columbia to surrender the mining rights of its Giant Copper project, located between Hope and Princeton and surrounded by the Skagit Valley Park and E.C. Manning Park, in a deal made to protect the area’s “natural and cultural heritage,” the government said.
Imperial has held Giant Copper since April 1988. The claim area, which predates the creation of the parks, hosts two mineral deposits containing copper, silver and gold and a recently discovered new gold showing, said the company.
“Our objective as a mining company would have been to proceed with exploration of our claims,” Brian Kynoch, the company’s president said in a press release. “But as a company that is responsive to the aspirations of Indigenous communities, government, and neighbours, we support this agreement.”
In 1995, the province designated almost 30,000 hectares for the Skagit Valley provincial park but allowed mineral exploration at the company’s 2,500-hectare claim area. Imperial at the time surrendered some of its claims along the Skagit River.
The decision to now surrender all of its remaining claims recognizes the challenges of obtaining mineral exploration and development permits in this area, the company said. It further stated that the “consideration payable to Imperial” for surrendering the project and covering its prior investments is C$24 million.
A spokesperson from the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation told The Northern Miner that the Skagit Environmental Endowment Commission (SEEC), formed by B.C. and the neigbhouring city of Seattle in the United States to protect the area’s natural resources, had raised the money, but are yet to pay Imperial Metals.
SEEC has secured C$5 million, B.C and Washington State has committed to provide C$7 million each and the Nature Conservancy of Canada will provide another C$5 million, according to the ministry.
The Northern Miner requested comment from Imperial Metals but did not hear back before press-time.
The “agreement is another step in the right direction to protect the rich natural heritage of the Silverdaisy watershed and surrounding areas for generations to come,” B.C. Premier John Horgan said in a press release.
George Heyman, minister of environment and climate change strategy, echoed a similar sentiment and said that the agreement “recognizes the importance of the old-growth forests and diverse species in the Silverdaisy watershed and surrounding ecosystem.”
Thomas Curley, Canada co-chair of the SEEC, described the deal as a “historic step forward.”
“Protecting this sensitive and diverse ecosystem with its significant fish and wildlife populations starts at the headwaters to the Skagit River within the Upper Skagit,” said Curley.
Industrial activity in the region has historically been opposed by both Indigenous communities and environmental groups. In 2019, the province, responded to calls from activists and stopped forestry operations in the Silverdaisy area by halting all timber sale licences in the same area of land.
In December 2020, Imperial Metals released drill results from the project, highlights of which included 3.11 metres grading 20.15 grams gold per tonne starting at 1.16 metres in drill hole GC-20-0-4 and 1 metre grading 15.20 grams gold per tonne starting at 0 metre in drill hole GC-20-0-1.
Drill results released in 2017 included 12.8 grams gold per tonne over 10 metres.
(This article first appeared in The Northern Miner)