A wide view of the inside of an open pit copper mine. The huge dump trucks look tiny in the mine.

Photo Credit: Robert Ciavarro / Flickr

Is a New Mine Coming to NorthIsle?

The decision won't get made until 2026

Copper is kind of the new gold

Northisle Copper & Gold is deciding whether to build an open-pit copper mine northeast of Holberg. Their deposit sits just south of Cape Scott.

Map of NorthIsle’s proposed mine
Credit: NorthIsle’s PowerPoint for investors

If NorthIsle goes ahead with the project, the mine will take about two years to build, and they would need 1,000 people to build it. Then, after that, it would take 500 people to run.

NorthIsle probably won’t make the decision until 2026. They’re still gathering data. But they need to consult with local municipalities and First Nations along the way.

As reported in the North Island Eagle, representatives from Northisle met with the Regional District of Mount Waddington Board of Directors on January 18th.

Nicholas Van Dyk, Northisle’s Chief Financial Officer, says the company has finished their Preliminary Economic Assessment phase. That’s where they decide if they can make enough money for the mine to be worth it. That alone took about 11 years.

Now NorthIsle is trying to raise money from investors to run the next set of studies. But, first, they need to study the social and environmental impacts and engineering required to build and run it.

They’ll need a lot of money to conduct the studies. Van Dyk thinks they can raise it, though, because copper is such an expensive and useful metal.

“Copper is a critical part of the electrification strategy,” he told the Board. “You need it for electricity distribution. You need it to actually build electric cars.”

The mine would bring a lot of jobs back to a region that was built on mining. But there have been major issues in the past. And folks on northern VanIsle have long memories.

Van Dyk had some reassuring words for the Board. “Sustainability has to be at the heart of mine development,” he said.

“[W]e don’t want to build a mine in a way that we aren’t happy having it in our backyard. We want to build something that we’re proud of, and that will leave a positive legacy for everybody for decades and decades after we’re long gone.”

Michelle Tanguay is Northisle’s head of sustainability and community relations. Her job is to figure out what the impact of the mine will be. The pollution from tailings ponds, and slurry can ruin the environment around a mine for decades. So she is also in charge of ensuring that NorthIsle limits their pollution and listens to the community’s concerns.

The Board’s concerns went beyond just pollution, even though that’s super important.

The mine would need a lot of power to build it and run it. The dams on VanIsle make energy here pretty cheap. But we all know how many problems BC Hydro has had with power outages north of Campbell River.

Cape Scott’s wind farm also produces clean power, but it has to go into the grid before getting to the mine.

Van Dyk says NorthIsle is looking at ways to get that power straight to the mine site. He also thinks that building the mine could come with added benefits, like new lines that would make electricity more reliable for everyone.

There’s also the issue of housing. Folks in the region have a hard enough time finding affordable places to live. If more people moved to Port Hardy to work at the new mine, things could be even harder.

Northisle didn’t have anything solid to say on that.

It will be a long time before we know whether the mine will be built. First, the social and economic studies need to happen, and then a two-year environmental impact study.

Maybe they’ll have an answer on housing in 2026.