Miners hope to see an early thumbs up

The president of the Avanti mining company is optimistic it will receive early environmental approval.

  • May. 9, 2012 9:00 a.m.

THE PRESIDENT of a mining company which wants to spend more than $800 million on a project north of here is optimistic it will receive early environmental approval.

The 180-day provincial environmental assessment clock for Avanti Mining’s Kitsault molybdenum project began ticking down April 30.

Projects can only be reviewed once government agencies are satisfied all of the necessary information has been compiled.

And so much work went into the application Avanti president Craig Nelsen is confident of approval before the 180- day period ends.

“That’s my hope. We’re getting a pretty good reaction,” said Nelsen in noting the final application incorporated comments and suggestions from agencies who reviewed Avanti’s preparation work.

He’s also confident of approval because of the work done to meet conditions of the Nisga’a Final Agreement.

The mine site is not situated within the core lands of the Nisga’a Lisims Government but is within the area in which Nisga’a have hunting and fishing rights.

“We did complete a socio economic impact assessment for the Nisga’a and that’s an 800-page document in its own right which now forms part of our application,” said Nelsen.

“And we’ve looked at the impacts of items such as transportation on First Nations in the area as well.”

Avanti has laid out a plan for an open pit operation that would take just over two years to build and have a mine life approaching 17 years.

Molybdenum is a sought after commodity used in high strength steel alloys and Avanti has been lining up international customers for the product.

At peak construction, 700 people would be needed with about half that required to work at the mine afterward.

Access to the location is by road and the company would maintain a camp at the site with workers on a three weeks in and three weeks out schedule.

Nelsen said Avanti anticipates a significant percentage of the Kitsault workforce will be from the area with the company only having to bring in some of its top people and those who have the kind of specialized skills not easily found in the region.

“We’re thinking in the area of 75 to 80 per cent [employment] range for northwest residents,” he said.

“We would also hope they would see the benefits of relocating to places such as Terrace,” added Nelsen of the outside workforce.

Avanti purchased the property in 2008 and has spent $70 million moving the project along to the environmental review stage.

That’s more than Nelsen thought it would take but said the expenditure is worth it because of the quality of the project.

An economic analysis of the project estimates that the mine would have an annual operating cost of $120 million.

By road, the mine site is 194 kilometres from Terrace with 100km of that being travelled on the paved Nisga’a Hwy to Nass Camp.

Kitsault has been the location of molybdenum mining before with the last mine closing in the early 1980s after only a short operations period. A collapsed molybdenum market was responsible.

That mining operation also left a ghost town at Kitsault complete with homes, apartments, stores and recreational facilities.


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