Jeanne Gagnon - Northern News Services
Published Thursday, September 26, 2013
Construction and mining jobs are one step closer to reality for many Deh Cho residents as Canadian Zinc has received all its permits to start mining, milling and processing activities at its Prairie Creek Mine.
Fort Simpson Mayor Sean Whelly said the Prairie Creek Mine will be highly beneficial to the community once updating of the 30-year-old mine begins. But, he added, all of this depends on financing and the price of lead and zinc.
"I think it's a significant event that Prairie Creek has finally received its last permitting," said Whelly.
"Still, I think having past all of its regulatory hurdles, I think it's very positive economic news for Fort Simpson.
"Because the mine, it would have a very long life once it's started, it is certainly something I think young people here will see some benefits from, and the business community as well."
Earlier this month, the federal department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development approved the water licence the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board had issued July 8.
The water licence, valid for seven years, was the final hurdle before the company could start construction, development and operation of the lead, zinc and silver underground mine 120 kilometres west of Fort Simpson.
"Approval of the water licence is a major milestone in the development of the Prairie Creek project and represents the culmination of a five-year environmental assessment and regulatory process," Alan B. Taylor, the chief operating officer of the corporation, stated in a news release
The board had issued the land-use permit this past January, enabling the company to build, maintain, operate and use the winter road connecting the mine to the Liard Highway.
But before that can happen, the company needs to raise some money, said Wilbert Antoine, manager of northern development at the Canadian Zinc Corporation.
"The financing is very unstable at this time," he said.
"We're trying to raise money to get our mine up and running. We're looking into $200 or $300 million, and it's very hard to do in these economic times."
Everything that will happen in the next couple of years is dependent upon successful financing, said Antoine. The first order of business once the financing is in place is to build a roughly 184-km winter road between the mine and the Liard Highway, near Nahanni Butte.
"The winter road will have to be the first major hurdle we accomplish because without the winter road, we cannot bring any materials to upgrade our existing mine, which has been there for the past 30 years," said Antoine.
"It's still brand new, still never been used but it's badly outdated."
The mine project is expected to bring in jobs to the region. During construction, about 130 people would work at the mine at any given shift for a total of 230 employees during construction, said Antoine. He added the corporation is aiming to start commercial production approximately in 2015.
"Upgrading the existing mill and all the infrastructure, we're looking at one to two years of construction, again all dependent upon completion of the winter road construction," he said.
Under the socio-economic agreement, the corporation has with the territorial government, the communities of Nahanni Butte and Fort Simpson will be the first to benefit from the mine as they have impact benefit agreements, said Antoine.
"We feel this will be a huge, huge impact locally in the Deh Cho," said Antoine.
"We want to do the right things for the right reasons for the right people."