I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Imperial Metals (III) chairman Pierre Lebel for the Vancouver Sun and my feature on Lebel and Imperial’s Red Chris mine is in today’s Sun business section and online. Red Chris, British Columbia’s next mine, is an open-pit copper-gold mine being built south of Dease Lake in northwestern B.C. Comissioning is scheduled for this summer, with production to follow in the fall.
Lebel is a low-key but high-performing executive who finds a way to get things done. Imperial won Red Chris in a bidding war with Taseko in 2007 and wasted no time taking it from exploration to production, a feat not many mining companies accomplish – let alone in seven years. Red Chris will be Imperial’s third B.C. mine (the company also owns a small Nevada gold mine) and by far its largest, with production for the first 5 years pegged at 88 million lbs copper and 52,700 ounces of gold. Not bad for a $1-billion market cap company.
In the case of Red Chris, getting things done meant clearing multiple hurdles, as well as a foray into the power line construction business. Imperial is building the Iskut Extension to the Northwest Transmission Line, and struck a creative deal to sell it back to BC Hydro.
I didn’t mention it in the story, but Imperial’s share performance hasn’t been too shabby, either. The stock has a 1-year return of about 19% at the time of writing, and a whopping 5-year return of 600% since the financial crisis. Memo to junior mining companies: Imperial has only 75 million shares outstanding. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the company’s major shareholder is oilpatch billionaire N. Murray Edwards, who also helped finance mine construction and was a key partner to Imperial management, according to Lebel.
The piece is Part 2 of a 3-part series on mining in northwestern B.C.
Related reading: Part 1: Quartermain goes for the gold | World of Mining