For the past 17 years, Huckleberry Mine has been an integral part of the economy for the Houston region.
But, as with every mine, Huckleberry was inching closer to the end of its projected life span as years went by. The mine was given new life in 2012, however, as the board of directors of Huckleberry Mines Ltd. voted to approve a Main Zone Optimization (MZO) plan that will extend operations of the mine through to 2021.
The expansion is not coming cheap to co-owners Huckleberry Mines Ltd. and Imperial Metals, but the benefits to the Northwest are more than significant. Without the expansion, 230 full-time positions and another 30 contract positions on the site would be lost. In addition to keeping the jobs that exist at the mine, 70 new positions are being created. With the expansion, Huckleberry Mines anticipated spending approximately $254.4 million on wages and benefits, $119 million on new acquisition and $82 million on the construction of a dam.
The increase in employment comes despite a decrease in production for the expanded mine. Since the commencement of operation in 1997 through to the end of 2010, aggregate production was 870 million pounds of copper, 8 million pounds of molybdenum, 105,000 ounces of gold and 3.4 million ounces of silver. From 2011 through to the end of the mine’s expected lifespan, production is estimated to be 424 million pounds of copper. The average production is 43.2 million tonnes per year through to 2019, while production will be reduced in 2020 and 2021 as low grade stock piles are milled.
The mine has been temporarily shut down for up to four months for repairs after it was discovered there was a broken tooth in the bull gear of the SAG mill on site.