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Northern B.C., a mining hot spot

By Rebecca Billard - Burns Lake Lakes District News

November 25,2010

Northern B.C. is set to becoming a hot spot for mining.
With a number of mines currently under construction and more in the permitting process, the mining industry is set to diversify the local economy in the wake of the lull in the forestry sector.
An overview of current projects shows how busy the North is when it comes to mining.
The Davidson deposit
Blue Pearl Mining, a subsidiary of Thompson Creek Metals, plans to build and operate an underground molybdenum mine producing an average of 2,000 metric tonnes of ore per day.
Located on the east side of Hudson Bay Mountain and approximately nine kilometres from Smithers, the deposit lies 300 to 450 metres below ground and is currently accessed by a two kilometre tunnel developed in the 1960s.
The feasibility study reports the project's mine life to be 10 years, however Thompson Creek Metals say the Davidson Project represents a long-life resource that will support mining for a much longer period, especially if molybdenum prices remain strong. Blue Pearl has been working on the Davidson Project since 2005.
In Sept. 2008 an environmental application was formally submitted and a 55- day formal public review period began.
Members of the public were also able to review and comment on the company's application during this period.
Currently, Blue Pearl has submitted an environmental application to develop the Davidson Project.
The Environmental Assessment Office is now reviewing the application and the information provided from community consultation and will make a recommendation as to whether or not an environmental assessment certificate should be granted. A recommendation will then be made to the B.C. Minister of Environment and the B.C. Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources.
Dome Mountain
The proposed Dome Mountain project, a high grade gold and silver mine, is located approximately 38 kilometers east of Smithers. The property comprises of a total area of 10,970.9 hectares.
The project has an estimated mine life of two years, however the company believes there is considerable opportunity to increase the mineral resources through further exploration.
In Aug. 2010, a Mines Act permit as well as an Environmental Management Act permit were issued to the company. Then, in Sept. 2010 a pre-feasibility study was completed. The results of the study have been reported as favorable. On Nov. 12 the company reported that initial construction has begun at the Dome Mountain project site.
Construction of necessary facilities including the realignment of the mine access road and the foundation for the water treatment plant has been initiated which will enable the start-up of mine operations.
The Morrison property
The proposed Morrison copper and gold project, located near Granisle is currently under an environmental assessment review. The property which is 100 per cent owned by Pacific Booker Minerals Inc. will produce up to 11 million tonnes of ore per year.
A full feasibility study and an environmental assessment study have been recently completed and the application for an environmental assessment certificate has now been accepted by the British Columbia Environmental Assessment office for review, as well as a number of other permit applications.
The maximum duration of the review period is 256 days with an environmental assessment certificate expected to be given to the company on Feb. 22, 2011
The proposed project is still subject to a comprehensive federal review under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.
If the environmental assessment certificate is issued the company hopes to begin construction late 2011 and the company estimates that over 225 local jobs would be created.
Mt. Milligan
Mt. Milligan mine, a copper and gold project located approximately 145 kilometres northwest of Prince George, near Fort St. James is now forging ahead. Terrane Metals, a subsidiary of Thompson Creek Metals Inc. has been rapidly advancing the Mt. Milligan project towards mine production since acquiring the property in July 2006. The company is now in the process of constructing the mine, which is expected to be in full production during 2013.
The Mt. Milligan project is based on a conventional truck-shovel open pit mine and will be built over a 30 month period at a capital cost of approximately $915 million. Commercial production of ore is scheduled to commence in 2013.
Average annual metal production over a 22-year mine life is forecast to be 81 million pounds of copper and 194,500 ounces gold. The mine plan has been designed for extraction of higher grade and gold rich reserves in the early years. In the first six years of the mine plan, gold production will account for 55 per cent of the revenue. The Mount Milligan project was given Federal environmental approval last December and recently received its final authorizations from the Federal Environment Ministry enabling construction to forge ahead.
The open-pit operation is expected to employ approximately 400 mine workers.
The Berg project
Terrane Metals' second significant asset is the Berg Project located approximately 84 kilometres southwest of Houston and 22 kilometres northwest of Huckleberry Mine.
From 1965 to 1980, Kennecott Exploration Ltd. and Placer Dome Inc. completed 119 diamond drill holes totaling 20,128 metres on the property and developed a significant copper and molybdenum resource. The joint venture partners also completed numerous metallurgical tests, environmental studies, and financial analysis on the Berg project. The project was then shelved in the early 1990's due to declining metal prices, however in 2006, Terrane Metals obtained 100 per cent ownership of the project and reactivated the property. Terrane decided to evaluate the potential of bringing the proposed mine to commercial production. Terrane has now completed over 22,500 metres of diamond drilling in 60 holes, testing the depth potential of the deposit and investigating the molybdenum- rich core zone. Then in May, 2009 Terrane announced a revised mineral resource estimate for the project which equated to a 36 per cent expansion over the previous estimate.
The company reports ongoing exploration and development at the site. The Berg project is ideally situated near infrastructure associated with the Huckleberry Mine and has the potential to be a significant producer of copper and molybdenum. Terrane Metals will continue to advance the project by investigating mine development scenarios.
The proposed Kitsault open pit, molybdenum mine was first staked in 1911 and is located near Alice Arm 140 kilometres north east of Prince Rupert and is accessible by air or boat from Prince Rupert, or by road from Terrace.
Kitsault is one of the top five primary molybdenum development assets worldwide. The property contains three known molybdenum deposits: Kitsault, Bell Moly, and Roundy Creek. Avanti Mining Inc. says there is also potential for additional exploration which may lead to further expansion of the mine.
The company, through its wholly owned subsidiary Avanti Kitsault Mine Ltd. recently announced progress on the environmental assessment process. On Nov. 5, 2010, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office approved the release of draft application information requirements to technical specialists representing both federal and provincial regulators.
Regulators now have 30 days to provide comments to the company on the draft application. Following the regulatory review, the public will also have 30 days to comment on the application. The public comment period will take place early in 2011.
As of Nov. 8, 2010 the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency has also commenced its own public comment period for the federal environmental assessment. The public comment period will close on December 10, 2010.
The Chu project
TTM Resources Inc. a Vancouver based publicly trading resource exploration and development company is currently focused the Chu Project, located 75 kilometres from the Endako Mine. Exploration programs for 2010 will concentrate on the molybdenum and copper resource. To date the drilling on the Chu project has outlined mineralization extending over 1.7 kilometers long, over 650 meters deep, and 400 meters wide. The deposit remains open to depth. TTM advanced the project to the pre-feasibility stage in fall 2010.
Endako Mine
The Endako Mine is a surface molybdenum mine is located near Fraser Lake. The mine is operated as a joint venture with Thompson Creek Metals holding a 75 per cent interest and Sojitz Corporation, a Japanese company, holding a 25 per cent interest.
The Endako Mine is a fully integrated facility that began its operations in 1965. It includes a concentrator that processes ore through crushing, grinding, and flotation circuits into molybdenum disulfide concentrate, and a multiple hearth roasting facility that converts the concentrate into technical grade molybdenum oxide. Processing capacity at Endako is currently 31,000 tons of ore per day however in Aug. 2009, the corporation began an expansion and modernization project that is set to increase the mill capacity to 55,000 tons per day.
Construction of a new mill building and installation of new processing equipment is expected to be completed by the end of 2011. In 2007, mine life was estimated at 26 years assuming a long term molybdenum price of U.S. $10 per pound and updated costs. Based on existing mineral reserves, mine life will be reduced to about 16 years when the new mill is operational and is processing ore at the expected rate of 55,000 tons per day. The corporation has been conducting exploration drilling in the area that may lead to a revision in mineral resources and reserves and mine life. Tony Thompson, human resources and safety superintendent at the mine said that approximately 315 people are currently employed at the mine itself, while there have been 400 additional temporary construction jobs created during the building of the expansion.
Huckleberry Mine
Huckleberry Mine is an open pit copper/molybdenum mine located approximately 123 kilometres southwest of Houston.
The Huckleberry property consists of a mining lease covering approximately 1, 911 hectares, and 34 mineral claims encompassing approximately 16,307 hectares. Huckleberry Mines Ltd. also has an interest in three mineral claims covering 3, 059 hectares on a property eight kilometres north of the Huckleberry Mine known as Whiting Creek. In June, 2009 Huckleberry Mines Ltd. approved an extension of Huckleberry's mine plan to include the saddle zone resource, which will provide for mill feed to extend milling operations from 2010 to the end of 2011.
The saddle zone resource, located between the main zone pit and the main zone extension pit, has a high potential to provide additional extensions to the mine life depending on the copper price.
Exploration to find additional reserves will be ongoing. Huckleberry Mine employs over 230 full time people.
"It's an optimistic light on the horizon for us economically," said Nathan Cullen MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley,
"Many of us are strategically placed for getting at those jobs, and companies are also looking to hire locally, which is critical."