Bill Mracek, vice president and general manager of Endako Mines said to Lakes District News that the mine’s new mill will be up and running by October 2011.
Mracek spoke to Lakes District News during an Endako Mine expansion project open house that was held last week at the Fraser Lake arena complex.
He went on to say that the old mill is still in use and will continue to function until the new mill is ready.
The Endako Mine is a primary surface molybdenum mine located near Endako.
It began its operations in 1965 and currently employs 280 people from across the local area.
A $498 million expansion is currently underway which, when completed will increase direct employment numbers to 350.
“We currently have 20 employees from Burns Lake working at the mine,” Mracek said adding that the majority of the mine’s employees come from Fraser Lake, Fort St. John, Fort St. James and Vanderhoof.
He went on to say that the mine focusses on employing local and First Nations people.
“We have increased our First Nations employment numbers from below 10 per cent to 17 per cent over the last year,” Mracek said.
The Endako Mine also provides indirect employment for approximately 600 people including millions of dollars in payments to local contractors and suppliers who are working on the expansion project.
“We have hired over 100 people in the last year and are still looking for approximately 10 to 20 more people. Many of these positions are to get ready for the expansion,” Mracek added.
According to figures presented to the public during the open house the mine pays out $18.8 million in wages every year, and another $5 million in employee benefits.
They also spend $6.9 million locally on fuel every year and $1.3 million on natural gas.
Mracek also said the mine built alot of the current infrastructure in Fraser Lake including the arena complex, the schools, the apartment buildings and the hotel and bar.
He went on to say that the Endako Mine also benefits the local area in a number of other ways including annual scholarships to Fraser Lake Secondary School students, financial assistance to local medical facilities and programs and supporting community and cultural events,
Mracek said the mine also supports Burns Lake charities and said that over Christmas over a $1,000 was given to the food bank in Burns Lake.
Tony Thompson human resources and safety superintendent at Endako Mines said, “We treat Burns Lake as if it is local. We look at funding for any groups that benefit the whole community or youth groups such as minor hockey.”
The Village of Fraser Lake also benefits from the mine.
Mracek said that in 2009 the Endako Mine was required to pay $510,000 to the municipality in property taxes.
He added, “When the Village of Fraser Lake heard about the expansion plans they increased the mine’s assessed property value and we now are required to pay the Village of Fraser Lake $1.9 million a year, or $2.4 million including school and hospital taxes …. we are not too happy about it.”
Mracek continued, “The taxes to the village are fixed, however the prices of molybdenum are not … if the price of molybdenum plunges it adds that much more risk to the operation,” he said.
“We supplied 80 per cent of the village’s funding this year [in tax dollars],” he added.
Fraser Lake mayor Dwayne Lindstom said to Lakes District News that he was not prepared to comment on the increase in taxes other than to say that the increase was due to property assessment. “I am not prepared to talk about it,” Lindstrom said.
Currently the mine is milling 28,000 tons of ore per day, however when the expansion is complete the milling capacity will be boosted to 52,000 tons of ore per day.
This will increase the production of molybdenum oxide from 10 million pounds to 16 million pounds annually.
The expansion will also provide the mill with modern equipment increasing its efficiency.
“Four new mine trucks have been purchased, which equals half of our truck fleet,” said Mracek.
The trucks came with a price tag of $4 million each and were purchased from a B.C. company.
A new shovel was also purchased which cost $20 million dollars. It was purchased from U.S. company that has an office in Prince George.
“It is one of the major pieces for the mine,” he said.
Part of the expansion will also include the combining of the Endako pit, the Denak east pit and the Denak west pit into one super pit.
Tailings pond numbers one and three will also be expanded as well as an expansion to the waste and rock dumps.
With the increased production the Endako Mine has a projected 16 years of mine life however Mracek said there is always the possibility of further exploration which would then allow the mine to continue beyond its 16 projected years.