BC Wildfires Hit Copper Operations and Force Thousands from Homes

More than 14,000 people are now under evacuation orders, and mining companies have started to scale back or suspend activities.

wildfires

Communities in BC have been disrupted by over 200 wildfires this week. More than 14,000 people are now under evacuation orders as firefighters battle out-of-control fires covering about 400 square kilometers.

The fires led the province to declare its first state of emergency in 14 years over the weekend, and are also impacting copper-focused companies in BC.

Vancouver-based Imperial Metals (TSX:III) said on Monday (July 10) that activity at its Mount Polley copper mine has been “significantly reduced” because some employees have been evacuated from their homes. What’s more, many roads have been closed and a local airport has been shut down.

“Should critical supplies, such as fuel, not be available due to road closures, the mine may be forced to suspend operations,” the company said.

In addition to Mount Polley, Imperial Metals owns the Red Chris and Huckleberry copper mines in BC; it also holds a 50-percent interest in the Ruddock Creek leadzinc property in the province.

Taseko Mines (TSX:TKO,NYSEMKT:TGB) operates the Gibraltar mine, the second largest open-pit copper-molybdenum mine in Canada. It is located in an area where seven major fires are currently burning. Taseko employees have also been affected by evacuation alerts, but the company said the facility is still running as normal.

Teck Resources (TSX:TCK.B,NYSE:TECK) is closely monitoring the situation as well, as its Highland Valley copper mine is located just south of a major fire. “[At] this time we do not anticipate an impact on mining operations,” spokesperson Chad Pederson told Bloomberg. “No other Teck operation is affected by wildfires at this time.”

As of Monday, the only miner to report an impact to mining facilities was Copper Mountain Mining (TSX:CMMC). The company’s Copper Mountain mine lost power due to a line being down, but is now operating normally again.

The province’s main electricity distributor, BC Hydro and Power Authority, said more than 170 power poles and 29 transformers have been damaged, and noted that it expects the damage to increase.

BC officials expect a lengthy wildfire season, and Bob Turner of Emergency Management BC said the situation is still deteriorating. “We are looking at many weeks to come of a very challenging environment and public safety will remain the overriding priority of government,” he commented.

The province has recently announced C$100 million (US$78 million) in emergency funds. The Canadian Red Cross will distribute stipends of C$600 to help those displaced by fires, and other money will be reserved for rebuilding.

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Securities Disclosure: I, Priscila Barrera, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

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