The proposed gold mine has local First Nation support and requires no tailings pond
It might be the only new mine in B.C.'s pipeline that doesn't face major hurdles with First Nations, environmentalists and government.
Pretium Resources Inc. (TSX:PVG) is proposing to build a $750 million underground gold-silver mine next to Brucejack Lake, 70 kilometres north of Stewart. A B.C. Environmental Assessment Office review of the project is now underway.
The mine would employ roughly 800 people during its construction and another 500 during its lifespan, which is expected to be at least 20 years.
In the wake of the Mount Polley tailings pond collapse, other mine proposals in B.C. are now coming under greater scrutiny. Unlike many other proposals, however, the Brucejack mine would not require a tailings pond to be built. Half of the tailings would go back underground; the rest would be pumped into Brucejack Lake.
That might be a problem if there were any fish in Brucejack Lake, but there are none.
“That's the beauty of it: the nearest fish are 20 kilometres away,” said Michelle Romero, Pretium's vice-president of corporate relations. “It's a beautiful accident of geography, I guess.”
Brucejack Lake already has mine tailings in it from a previous mine project, which never went into full production.
As for First Nations issues, the mine site is within territory claimed by the Skii km Lax Ha, a tiny 30-member band. Darlene Simpson, who is the hereditary chief, and her husband, George Simpson, not only support the Brucejack project, but have been providing much of the labour for the exploratory and preparatory work through Tsetsaut Ventures.
Simpson, who lives on the Gitanmaax reserve in Hazelton, said the mine already employs 63 people through Tsetsaut Ventures. They work on rotational shifts, doing everything from providing transportation and geotechnical work to running work camps. About 70% are First Nation members.
“We have a good relationship with Pretium,” Simpson said. “Early engagement is the key.”
Pretium has no other working mines. Brucejack is its flagship project, although it also has a gold property – Snowfield – near the massive KSM mine proposed by Seabridge Gold Inc. (TSX:SEA) and a co-operation agreement with Seabridge that could combine the KSM and Snowfield projects.
Mickey Fulp, an American mine analyst and publisher of the Mercenary Geologist newsletter, said that while the Brucejack mine is disadvantaged by difficult and remote geography, Brucejack's ore qualities are “extraordinary.”
“It's certainly very high-grade ore,” he said. “That said, the gold is very erratically distributed.”
That makes it hard to predict where the ore will be until it's mined.
Pretium hopes to get an environmental assessment certificate and mine permit by the end of 2015 and to have the mine producing by 2017.