Copper Price Decline Takes Imperial’s Mount Polley Offline

- January 8th, 2019

Imperial Metals cited only declining copper prices as the reason behind the suspension, which will take full effect in May.

Continuously declining copper prices have claimed a Canadian victim, with Imperial Metals (TSX:III) announcing it will be suspending operations at its Mount Polley mine in BC.

In the company’s Monday (January 7) announcement, released after the Toronto Stock Exchange closed for the day, Imperial cited only declining copper prices as the reason behind the suspension, which will take full effect in May.

After hitting values below 2018 lows on the second trading day of 2019, copper is so far down year-to-date, trading at US$5,820 per tonne as of Tuesday (January 8), the fifth trading day of the year.

“Full operations will resume once the economics of mining at Mount Polley improve,” says the release.

Mount Polley, located in BC’s Cariboo Region, has a checkered past, having been the site of the 2014 Mount Polley environmental catastrophe wherein a tailings dam collapsed, flooding nearby waterways with millions of cubic meters of tailings waste.

A report later found the failure was a result of a design flaw in the dam wall, leading to Imperial suing two engineering firms associated with its construction in 2016.

In November of last year, Imperial settled out of court for C$108 million in a case relating to the dam collapse, with all parties filing to have the action dismissed in court.

Imperial did not have a rosy 2018, with losses of C$28 million in Q3. The company said at the time of the settlement that it would put the money towards liquidity as it underwent a strategic review.

In Monday’s release, the company says that the mine suspension in May will have “no impact to the mine’s ongoing environmental monitoring and remediation program.”

The company adds that “the suspension plan includes milling of low grade stockpiles which is targeted to extend operations to the end of May 2019.”

Imperial did not respond by deadline to questions on how workers will be affected.

Unionized workers at Mount Polley were on strike in 2018 from May through to August, chewing into the mine’s Q2 production by 31.8 percent and its Q3 production by 34 percent.

The company’s second mine, Red Chris, which is also in BC, remains in operation.

On the Toronto Stock Exchange, Imperial’s share price fell sharply on Tuesday morning after the release, with its value dropping from C$1.99 to C$1.58 immediately upon the market’s opening.

As the day wore on the losses tempered somewhat, with Imperial bouncing back to C$1.76 by midday — 11 percent below Monday’s closing value.

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

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