Federal Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq signed off on Pretivm’s Brucejack Gold Mine Project Thursday. The mine site is about 65 kilometres north of Stewart, near where Seabridge Gold’s KSM gold mine site also received federal and provincial approval last year.
The environmental assessment approval also came with a project recommendation determining the potential effects of the mine under the Nisga’a Final Agreement (NFA) signed in 2000, described by the federal government as a modern treaty signed by the governments of Canada, British Columbia and the Nisga’a Nation.
“I have determined that the designated project can reasonably be expected to result in adverse, but not significant, environmental effects on Nisga’a interests related to fisheries, wildlife, migratory birds, and access for Nisga’a citizens to the Nass Area that overlaps the project site,” stated Aglukkaq.
Nisga’a and Pretivm signed an economic benefits deal tied to the project in early April, days after it received provincial environmental clearance.
Pretivm president and CEO Robert Quartermain said in the spring that his Vancouver-based company would need 800-900 employees for construction. The mine itself would have 500 employees working over its 18-year operating life. Construction is expected to be completed in 2017.
The CEO said the company’s policy is to hire as many people from northwest B.C. as possible to work at extracting the 2,700 tonnes of ore per day. He pointed to his past experience running mining company Silver Standard Resources in South America as an example of local hiring practices he aims to achieve.
“We built one mine in Argentina and over 90 per cent of the employees were individuals who lived within a couple hundred kilometre catchment radius.
“So here I expect we will be employing people from Smithers, Terrace, New Hazelton, up through Gitanyow, Stuart and Dease Lake,” said Quartermain in an interview with The Interior News after the April provincial environmental assessment approval.
The project will not have a tailings pond, but instead deposit tailings paste from a plant on the surface into Brucejack Lake.
“Because it’s underground, about half the material we actually mine will go back into the underground facilities themselves as paste backfill, said Quartermain.
“The other material will go into Brucejack Lake, and this is a lake which has no fish in it. The closest fish to us are 20 kilometres downstream… We have a very small environmental footprint, less than 10 hectares because of the high grade nature of the project,” added Quartermain.
The mine is within the Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine and on traditional Nisga’a territory. The provincial approval comes with 15 conditions which include communicating with aboriginal groups and regional communities about economic and training opportunities and mitigations for avoiding adverse social impacts.
“The Skii km Lax Ha have asserted rights of interest in traplines along our access road. The Nisga’a have rights, this is within their sealand area; and then the Tahltan are largely to the north of us but also have some asserted rights at the start of our access road,” said Quartermain, who added jobs and training will be offered to members of the local First Nations.
The 30-member Skii km Lax Ha largely live in the Hazeltons.
Quartermain came out of retirement to purchase Brucejack from Silver Standard in 2010, raising $283 million in Canada’s third-largest initial public offering according to Pretivm’s CEO and first shareholder.
“B.C. is known as a mining-friendly jurisdiction. There are many mines operating in this province, and many mines are continuing to be permitted. In a global basis, it often takes a long time to be permitted an operation. In the case of Pretivm, we only discovered high grade gold in 2011 and here we are now and we’re already through the environmental process getting ready to start construction once we receive the permits,” said Quartermain, adding the company has spent about $300 million up to this point, mostly in northern B.C.
The project would draw power from the provincial grid by building a 57km transmission line from the minesite to the Long Lake hydro project.