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Company confident of northwestern B.C. mine plan

THE COMPANY that wants to build a molybdenum mine on the north coast of B.C. remains confident of its project despite objections by the Nisga'a Nation.

Avanti Mines president Craig Nelsen said it spent four years and $13 million on environmental studies alone on its project to develop a mine at Kitsault.

"We are confident the science is sound and the record is robust," said Nelsen yesterday.

His comments follow news the Nisga'a want to use the dispute resolution portion of their land claims treaty with the federal and provincial governments to halt approval of the project by the provincial government.

Kitsault is not part of the core Nisga'a lands as outlined in their land claims treaty but they do have an influence within the treaty provisions on development there.

The Nisga'a say they continue to have worries about how waste water will be handled and that the province might be rushed into approval because of the upcoming provincial election.

Avanti's plans call for water run-off to be contained and managed through a single release point and that it will be treated as necessary.

Nelsen said there's nothing in the Nisga'a treaty preventing the province from making a decision.

An environmental assessment report has been in the hands of the provincial mines and environment ministers since March 1 and they have 45 days as of that date to say 'yes' or 'no' or ask for further studies.

"The amount of work that we have done to ensure the Nisga'a Treaty requirements have been met has been extraordinary and unprecedented, and the government has already gone well past the statutory timeframes," said Nelsen. "We firmly believe that BC and Canada have fulfilled their obligations under the treaty and fully expect the ministers to approve this project at this time."

He said the assessment includes a 600-page report on the cultural, social and economic interests of the Nisga'a and that Avanti has provided the Nisga'a with "significant capacity funding" to take part.

Nelsen said the prospect of mine construction and then operating jobs provide an opportunity for increasing Nisga'a prosperity.

The company would assist in the training of Nisga'a and other workers.

Dispute resolution provisions within the Nisga'a treaty begin with informal discussions to resolve problems and can include mediation or arbitration and ultimately court action.

Avanti is willing to explore a benefits agreement with the Nisga'a provided terms are agreeable to both parties, Nelsen said.

He said those discussions are not relevant to the province making an approval decision and would be outside of any dispute resolution activity.

Molybdenum, used as a strengthening agent in steel, has been mined twice at Kitsault with the last attempt ending in 1982 after a brief period. A drop in prices made the mine uneconomical and a town built for workers and their families was abandoned.

Avanti would spend close to $1 billion in developing its mine, employ 700 workers during construction and 300 afterward over a 16-year operation life.

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