Hope Bay gleams with possibilities
Hope springs eternal in a little corner of the Kitikmeot
CAMBRIDGE BAY — The mining companies drilling at the Hope Bay gold project in the Kitikmeot are banking on that stretch of tundra becoming Nunavut’s first gold mine.
They’re so confident that they’re pumping another $8 million into the project this year, drilling more holes at the site of the proposed gold mine and exploring for new sources of gold deposits.
For Hope Bay’s joint owners, Miramar Mining Corp. and Hope Bay Gold Corp., the gold-rich site that lies 160 kilometres southwest of Cambridge Bay, is gleaming with possibilities.
The Hope Bay project is big — in more ways than one.
The area, an 80-kilometre gold-rich belt, contains what its owners say is the “best undeveloped gold property in North America.” Three deposits already discovered there boast 4.3 million ounces of gold resources.
On top of that, Hope Bay is the largest exploration project in all of Nunavut. Last year, the mining companies spent $15 million on exploration and they plan to put in another $8 million worth of drilling this year.
Dean McDonald, an official with Miramar Mining Corp, said that of Hope Bay’s three major drilling areas, Doris, Boston and Madrid, the Doris deposit will be the focus of 2002.
McDonald told delegates attending the Mining Symposium in Cambridge Bay two weeks ago that Hope Bay’s Doris gold deposit is their most promising.
The Doris deposit, located near the north end of the Hope Bay site, consists of a four-kilometre-long quartz vein. As McDonald puts it: “The Doris project is virtually a large quartz vein.”
Because its high-grade gold deposits are located near the tundra surface, the Doris site is set for major drilling work this summer.
“When we sat down to figure out where to start first, we thought the Doris site would be the best to start with,” McDonald said, pointing to a map of the gold-rich area.
Workers will drill 100 holes, totalling 8,900 metres, in the Doris Hinge area in the coming months. The digging will help Hope Bay and Miramar determine the amount of gold resources they could mine in the future and will aid in drafting a detailed mining plan.
In addition to the drilling at the Doris site, the mining companies will tackle some exploration work in other spots. McDonald said the objective is to find areas that may hold significant new gold deposits.
The proposed mine
In a pamphlet, Miramar and Hope Bay Gold describe their vision for a proposed mine in the Doris Hinge area.
Under the plan, the companies would build an access road and an airstrip to the site. All bulk supplies and equipment would be shipped on barges from Hay River, while the crew would be transported to and from the site on aircraft.
The Hope Bay project could employ about 96 workers on site, with the majority coming from Cambridge Bay, Bathurst Inlet, Taloyoak, Gjoa Haven and Yellowknife.
Hugh Wilson, who works with Miramar Corp., said the proposed mine could operate for two years.
“It might not be the optimum mining that people are talking about here,” Wilson admitted. “But it may be the first gold mine in Nunavut. More importantly, it will be the first gold mine on Inuit-owned lands.”
Besides gearing up for more drilling and exploration, Hope Bay and Miramar are deep into paperwork.
As a large portion of the Hope Bay project sits on Inuit-owned lands, the mining companies have to submit a handful of reports to various Inuit organizations and boards for assessment.
On March 22 they submitted a preliminary project description to the Kitikmeot Inuit Association and the Nunavut Water Board. Those organizations then gave the report to the Nunavut Impact Review Board for screening.
McDonald said once the review board responds, the companies will turn their attention to writing an environmental impact statement, a detailed look at how the mining project could affect the surrounding land and wildlife.
They plan to submit the statement to the Nunavut Impact Review Board in the fourth quarter of their fiscal year.
If everything falls into place — including the financing — Miramar and Hope Bay Gold will start initial construction in the end of 2003, complete the open pits, access road, plant site and tank farm by April 2004 and begin production the end of 2004.