Quesnel councillors were excited to hear an update on Barkerville Gold Mines (BGM) Ltd.’s proposed mine in Wells at their last meeting and expressed a desire to help the company find housing for employees and help find a solution to providing power to the mine site and hopefully the surrounding areas.
Chris Pharness, BGM’s vice-president of sustainability and external relations, make a presentation to Quesnel council via telephone Tuesday, Sept. 15 to provide an update on the Cariboo Gold Project, BGM’s proposed underground gold mine in Wells.
“Our vision is to establish a safe, long-life mine in the historic Cariboo region that has a low environmental impact and positive socio-economic return for our Indigenous partners and stakeholders,” said Pharness.
The mine site is on the old Cariboo Gold Quartz mine site by the Jack O’ Clubs Lake.
The proposed mine footprint is about 19 hectares, and there would be water management and water treatment onsite, a camp for about 200 workers, an electrical substation, portals to mine from, a transmission line, and a concentrator building, which includes the concentrator, paste backfill plant, offices and warehouses, explained Pharness.
Pharness says they expect the average production will be 4,750 tons per day.
“We’re early on right now in the EA (Environmental Assessment) phase,” Pharness told council. “We’ve submitted our initial project description, our engagement plan, and we are hoping to submit our detailed project description within the next day or two.”
BGM is proposing upgrades to the existing processing facility at its QR Mill because it is a different type of ore than what they are currently mining at Bonanza Ledge.
This is also where they will have their filtered dry stack tailings.
Transportation from the mine to the QR Mill will use the existing roads, Highway 26 and the 500 Nyland Lake Road. The project will include a new highway bypass and portal access before Wells and new access from the mine site to the company’s Bonanza Ledge mine.
“We’ve done a bypass here because we’ve heard from residents that they didn’t want traffic going through town,” said Pharness.
Instead of using diesel generators for electricity, BGM will build a new 69 kV transmission line from the Barlow Substation to the mine site.
With the transmission line, initially, BGM wanted to go along Highway 26, but working with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure and BC Hydro, that hasn’t been working into their timeline, so they have opted to go with the Northern Transmission Line Route that will come in from the northwest.
“[It] basically follows a lot of existing bush roads and clear cut areas, and things like that, but this probably has the most amount of disturbance as far as new disturbance goes,” said Pharness. “But it affects less private properties along the route, and as far as caribou habitat goes, we’re intersected with both routes, but critical habitat is not intersected with the Northern Transmission Route. Design is still underway because we’re still in the phase where we’re working with the community of Wells to hear their concerns and address those within the design. We do a lot of mitigation by design, by getting input and designing our project so it addresses those.”
In terms of the transmission line, Pharness explained there were initial conversations with the District of wells, Barkerville Historic Town and Park, Troll Resort, Wingdam and the Lhtako Dené First Nation about them tying in and getting more power, but currently, because BGM is building this line privately, the company is still not able to deliver power itself.
“We are still working on legacy ideas with this,” he said.
The BGM transmission line was also a topic of discussion at the most recent Cariboo Regional District (CRD) board meeting on Sept. 11, where several directors noted it does not make sense to build a second line.
At that meeting, CRD directors voted to develop a proposal package to lobby the provincial government to facilitate sustainable development of three-phase power to the Cariboo Gold Project and Wells/Barkerville.
Pharness told council that after the Cariboo Gold Project goes through the EA process, which is about two years, it will be about two years of construction, starting in 2023, and they will still be doing some detailed design at that time.
The proposed mine life right now is 16 years, and then closure would take about two years, plus monitoring.
Pharness says the project will add about 250 jobs during the construction phase and about 450 jobs during operations. During operations, those jobs will be in shifts, so at any one time, there will probably be about close to 300 employees in Wells, he said.
Some examples of the roles that will be needed include heavy equipment operators, mechanics, miners, truck drivers, accountants, geologists, engineers, catering and camp staff, engineers and purchasers.
“The project will contribute positively to the area by providing opportunities for contractors and others during construction; providing well-paying full-time jobs at all levels from professionals right down to labourers; purchasing goods and services from the local area businesses,” said Pharness. “We’re going to diversify the local and regional economy a little bit. I think mining, we’ve come to the fore here these days with the forestry industry kind of having a pull-back in a sense, and it will enable people to stay in the local communities.
“Right now, we’re actually working with a resident of the Wells and we are working on getting grants to train forestry workers to get them involved in the mining industry because in two years, we’re going to need all these people, and we would like to hire most people locally. That would be a real benefit to the mine, as well as the region.”
Coun. Scott Elliott was excited to hear about the mine, and as chair of the City’s Housing Committee, he brought up the possibility of working together with BGM to help try to find accommodations for workers so they can live in Wells and Quesnel.
“We have so many people here who are working up north in mines, so I’m glad to hear you are interested in getting locals involved,” he said. “This is extremely exciting.”
Coun. Laurey-Anne Roodenburg was also excited at the prospect of more jobs coming to the area.
“The opportunity for 300 well-paying jobs around Quesnel is amazing,” she said. “Thank you very much for your company’s dedication to this project, and I look forward to seeing how it all comes out in the wash.”