A closer look at Imperial Metals Corporation and the Mount Polley Mine

The office of Imperial Metals Corporation, which owns Mount Polley Mine and is the site of a tailings pond breach.
The office of Imperial Metals Corporation, which owns Mount Polley Mine and is the site of a tailings pond breach. Rumina Daya | Global News

VANCOUVER — Imperial Metals Corporation has been a part of the BC economy for 55 years, since it was incorporated in 1959. It’s now the central figure in what locals are calling an environmental disaster at its Polley Mine site after a tailings pond breach.  Here’s a closer look at the company.

Aside from the Mount Polley Mine, Imperial Metals has shares in the Huckleberry Mine in west-central British Columbia, the Ruddock Creek Joint Venture in Kamloops, a mine in Nevada and is working on opening the Red Chris mine 80 kilometres south of Dease Lake.

Its annual report shows that total net income for the company in 2013 was $41 million. According to the company’s public filings, metal production in the second quarter of this year at the Mount Polley Mine alone totaled 12 million pounds of copper, 11,867 ounces of gold and 33,813 ounces of silver – up 46 per cent, 24 per cent and 35 per cent respectively, compared to the previous three months. The company spent $16.4 million on exploration, development and capital expenditures at the Polley Mine in the first quarter of the year.

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The company’s largest shareholder is prominent investor N. Murray Edwards, based out of Calgary.

Edwards was named Number 820 in Forbes’ list of the world’s top billionaires.  Aside from Imperial Metals, in which he holds a 36 per cent controlling stake, he owns ski resorts, other mining and oil companies, and a 30 per cent stake in the Calgary Flames, according to Forbes.  They estimate his net worth at $2.2 billion, up $250 million from 2013.

He also chairs the board of directors of Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., an Alberta-based crude oil and natural gas producer. The company claims it’s the largest heavy oil producer in Canada and the second-largest independent natural gas producer in the country. It’s come under fire in the last year, after suffering oil spills at four sites in northeast Alberta – spills that continue to ooze bitumen more than a year after they were first discovered. Global News conducted an analysis of 47 spills at CNRL’s properties since 2002, and found equipment failure to be the most commonly cited cause.

Just last month, the Alberta Energy Regulator completed a technical review of CNRL’s findings about the 2013 incidents and concluded the company’s own operations – which involve injecting high-pressure steam underground – were a fundamental cause of the oil spill. CNRL’s most recent quarterly report says it’s working with regulators to review the leak and have reduced its steaming in certain areas.

Since the news of the tailings pond breach, shares in Imperial Metals have dropped from over $16.80 on August 1 down to $10.22 today.

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 –With files from The Canadian Press, Anna Mehler Paperny and Leslie Young.

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