NIRB sets public hearing dates for three Nunavut gold projects
NIRB to host final public hearings in CamBay for Sabina’s Back River, TMAC’s Hope Bay; hearing in Baker Lake for small Meadowbank expansion
(Corrected Jan. 4, 11:50 a.m.)
The Nunavut Impact Review Board has announced final public hearing dates in April for two major Kitikmeot gold projects: Sabina Gold and Silver Corp.’s Back River proposal, and a proposal by TMAC Resources Ltd. to take the long-dormant Doris North mine out of mothballs.
And in March, they’ll hold a two-day public hearing in Baker Lake for a small expansion to Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd.’s Meadowbank operation.
The Back River public hearing will start April 25 at the Luke Novoligak Community Hall in Cambridge Bay and continue until April 30.
The review board will hear technical presentations on Sabina’s Back River project proposal until 9 p.m. April 27.
And on April 28 and April 29, the NIRB will hold a community roundtable. The last day of the Back River hearing, April 30, is set aside for a community roundtable also, as well as closing statements.
Sabina, which acquired the project from previous owners in 2009, submitted its project proposal for Back River to the NIRB in June 2012 and a Final Environmental Impact Statement in November 2015.
The company proposes a gold mining complex at its Goose property, about 400 kilometres south of Cambridge Bay on the mainland.
Sabina’s FEIS says their plan would stretch over 11 years, produce about 200,000 ounces of gold per year and generate an after tax return of about 25 per cent, based on a gold price of $1,150 per ounce and a Canadian dollar worth U.S. 80 cents.
And Sabina would build all-weather roads and a winter road from the Goose site to a marine laydown area at Bathurst Inlet.
That represents a scaled down version of the Bathurst Inlet Port and Road Proposal, which would include infrastructure supporting summer sealifts, as well as a tank farm at Bathurst Inlet.
As for TMAC’s plan for Doris North, the company’s proposal to the NIRB would change an existing project certificate for Doris North that the NIRB issued to the property’s original owner, Miramar Mining Corp., in 2006 — for a two-year-only mining operation aimed at kickstarting development of the larger Hope Bay gold field.
Newmont Mining Corp. acquired the project certificate when they bought Miramar in 2007 and were expected to start mining in 2012.
But Newmont backed out and put the property into care and maintenance.
In early 2013, TMAC acquired the Hope Bay project, which includes Doris North, from Newmont.
That means TMAC already holds all the necessary permits and licenses they need to start mining at Doris North — but only for two years.
Now, the company wants the NIRB to amend the Doris North project certificate to allow for an expanded six-year mining period over a larger area.
The NIRB’s public hearing on TMAC’s project certificate amendment proposal is set to start April 12 at Luke Novoligak Community Hall in Cambridge Bay.
NIRB board members will hear technical presentations on April 12 and April 13.
On April 14, they’ll hold a community roundtable and listen to closing statements.
The economic viability of the Doris North and Back River projects still remains in doubt.
The price of gold right now stands at around $1,075 per ounce — but Sabina’s pre-feasibility study presupposes a gold price of at least $1,200 an ounce.
The sinking price of gold has not hurt Agnico Eagle however, which, due to aggressive cost-cutting and increased production efficiencies, posted net income of $1.3 million in the third quarter of 2015, compared with a net loss of 15.1 million over the same period of 2014.
Through a proposed expansion to the Meadowbank mine’s Vault Pit, Agnico Eagle hopes to continue producing gold from Meadowbank until the third quarter of 2018.
That proposal, which would involve changes to the Meadowbank project certificate, will come before a two-day public hearing the NIRB has scheduled for Baker Lake this March.
The Vault Pit public hearing will start March 1 at the Baker Lake community hall with technical presentations from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and in the evening of March 1 from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
On March 2, the review board will hear more technical presentations from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., and a community roundtable and closing statements from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Agnico Eagle hopes the Vault Pit expansion will reduce a time gap in production between the wind-up of Meadowbank by the end of 2018 and the start-up of satellite mining operations at its promising Amaruq deposit, about 50 km from the existing mine and mill.
The company said this past August that Amaruq contains at least two million ounces of gold, an estimate that’s likely to continue growing with further exploration. They’re expected to reveal an updated resource estimate early in 2016.
An earlier version of the story, based on a draft environmental statement from 2014 for the Back River project, contained out-of-date information. Sabina proposes to develop the Goose site only and now bases its feasibility assessment on a gold price of US $1,150 per ounce and a Canadian dollar worth US 80 cents.