The closed Premier mine site near Stewart, B.C., formerly the largest in North America, has a new lease on life.
On Dec. 7, the provincial government and Ascot Resources Ltd. announced that the company had received a Mines Act Permit for construction of the Premier Gold Project (PGP), allowing it to restart operations at the mine located 25 kilometres from Stewart.
According to the company, construction on the project is expected to take one year and employ 140 people. When finished the project will create around 280 direct jobs, not including subcontractors and suppliers.
“Receiving the Mines Act Permit for PGP is a momentous milestone for Ascot, and the culmination of extensive collaboration and consultation with Nisga’a Nation and the provincial regulators,” said Derek White, Ascot Resources president, in a media release.
“We would like to thank our shareholders, Nisga’a Nation and the local towns of Stewart, B.C. and Hyder, Alaska for their support as we progressed through the permitting process.”
When PGP is completed, it will be connected to BC Hydro’s hydroelectric power grid, and according to Ascot, the project will be one of B.C.’s lowest carbon-intensive gold mines, while generating around $400 million in provincial and federal taxes.
Over the course of the eight year life of the mine, Ascot plans to invest $353 million in initial capital and incur $883 million in operating expenses. Based on current spot metal prices, the company expects to generate $746 million in after-tax free cash flow.
The plan is for much of the operating expenses to be spent in the local area and within the province, with an emphasis of hiring local people and Nisga’a citizens.
In July, Ascot and the Nisga’a Nation signed an updated benefits agreement for PGP, which will see Nisga’a people receive training and employment opportunities. The company will send cash payments to the Nisga’a Nation tied to permitting and production milestones, plus annual payments during production.
The agreement also includes sections on working collaboratively on environment management plans, a business opportunities committee, and management-level committee, as well as training and employment.
Nigsa’a Lisims Government President Eva Clayton said the Nisga’a Nation has worked closely with Ascot throughout the process, and that she is pleased PGP was issued a Mines Act Permit.
“The rights under our treaty and our commitment to stewardship of the Nass Valley and Nisga’a citizens have helped to set the Premier Gold Project to be a safe, prosperous, and responsible mining operation,” she said in a media release.
“We have developed a strong working relationship with Ascot and we wish to congratulate them on this important milestone. We look forward to our continued collaboration with Ascot in the full-scale construction and operation phases of the project.”
PGP still needs an Environmental Management Act Permit from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. Ascot anticipates that permit to be issued “imminently.”
First opened as a mine in 1918, the PGP area has gone through multiple different ventures over the past century, and was last operated as a mine until 2001.
Construction on the PGP is projected to begin producing early in 2023, a slight delay from the company’s original projection of late 2022 due to the loss of clarifier and thickener components at sea, and higher than average snowfall levels in the Stewart area this winter.
The PGP covers a land area of 8,133 hectares and has three major deposits — Premier, Silver Coin and Big Missouri — in addition to two smaller resource areas and several exploration targets.