Northern B.C. seeing plenty of mining activity

With a number of mines currently under construction and more in the permitting process, the mining industry is set to diversify the local economy in the wake of the lull in the forestry sector.

  • Mar. 9, 2011 6:00 p.m.

Northern B.C. is set to become a hot spot for mining. 

With a number of mines currently under construction and more in the permitting process, the mining industry is set to diversify the local economy in the wake of the lull in the forestry sector. 

An overview of current projects shows how busy the North is when it comes to mining. 

Mt. Milligan 

Mt. Milligan mine, a copper and gold project located approximately 145 kilometres northwest of Prince George, near Fort St. James is now forging ahead. Terrane Metals, a subsidiary of Thompson Creek Metals Inc., has been rapidly advancing the Mt. Milligan project towards mine production since acquiring the property in July 2006. The company is now in the process of constructing the mine, which is expected to be in full production during 2013. 

The Mt. Milligan project is based on a conventional truck-shovel open pit mine and will be built over a 30-month period at a capital cost of approximately $915 million. Commercial production of ore is scheduled to commence in 2013. 

Average annual metal production over a 22-year mine life is forecast to be 81 million pounds of copper and 194,500 ounces gold. The mine plan has been designed for extraction of higher grade and gold rich reserves in the early years. In the first six years of the mine plan, gold production will account for 55 per cent of the revenue. The Mount Milligan project was given Federal environmental approval last December and recently received its final authorizations from the Federal Environment Ministry enabling construction to forge ahead. 

The open-pit operation is expected to employ approximately 400 mine workers. 

Berg project 

Terrane Metals’ second significant asset is the Berg Project ,located approximately 84 kilometres southwest of Houston and 22 kilometres northwest of Huckleberry Mine. 

From 1965 to 1980, Kennecott Exploration Ltd. and Placer Dome Inc. completed 119 diamond drill holes totaling 20,128 metres on the property and developed a significant copper and molybdenum resource. The joint venture partners also completed numerous metallurgical tests, environmental studies, and financial analysis on the Berg project. 

The project was then shelved in the early 1990s due to declining metal prices, however in 2006, Terrane Metals obtained 100 per cent ownership of the project and reactivated the property. Terrane decided to evaluate the potential of bringing the proposed mine to commercial production. Terrane has now completed over 22,500 metres of diamond drilling in 60 holes, testing the depth potential of the deposit and investigating the molybdenum-rich core zone. Then in May 2009 Terrane announced a revised mineral resource estimate for the project which equated to a 36 per cent expansion over the previous estimate. 

The company reports ongoing exploration and development at the site. The Berg project is ideally situated near infrastructure associated with the Huckleberry Mine and has the potential to be a significant producer of copper and molybdenum. Terrane Metals will continue to advance the project by investigating mine development scenarios. 

Chu project 

TTM Resources Inc., a Vancouver based publicly trading resource exploration and development company, is currently focused onthe Chu Project, located 75 kilometres from the Endako Mine. Exploration programs for 2010 will concentrate on the molybdenum and copper resource. To date the drilling on the Chu project has outlined mineralization extending over 1.7 kilometers long, over 650 meters deep, and 400 meters wide. The deposit remains open to depth. TTM advanced the project to the pre-feasibility stage in fall 2010. 

Endako Mine 

The Endako Mine is a surface molybdenum mine located near Fraser Lake. The mine is operated as a joint venture with Thompson Creek Metals holding a 75 per cent interest and Sojitz Corporation, a Japanese company, holding a 25 per cent interest. 

The Endako Mine is a fully integrated facility that began its operations in 1965. It includes a concentrator that processes ore through crushing, grinding, and flotation circuits into molybdenum disulfide concentrate, and a multiple hearth roasting facility that converts the concentrate into technical grade molybdenum oxide. Processing capacity at Endako is currently 31,000 tons of ore per day, however in August 2009, the corporation began an expansion and modernization project that is set to increase the mill capacity to 55,000 tons per day. 

Construction of a new mill building and installation of new processing equipment is expected to be completed by the end of 2011. In 2007, mine life was estimated at 26 years assuming a long term molybdenum price of U.S. $10 per pound and updated costs. Based on existing mineral reserves, mine life will be reduced to about 16 years when the new mill is operational and is processing ore at the expected rate of 55,000 tons per day. The corporation has been conducting exploration drilling in the area that may lead to a revision in mineral resources and reserves and mine life. Tony Thompson, human resources and safety superintendent at the mine, said that approximately 315 people are currently employed at the mine itself, while there have been 400 additional temporary construction jobs created during the building of the expansion. 

Huckleberry Mine 

Huckleberry Mine is an open pit copper/molybdenum mine located approximately 123 kilometres southwest of Houston. 

The Huckleberry property consists of a mining lease covering approximately 1,911 hectares, and 34 mineral claims encompassing approximately 16,307 hectares. Huckleberry Mines Ltd. also has an interest in three mineral claims covering 3,059 hectares on a property eight kilometres north of the Huckleberry Mine known as Whiting Creek. In June 2009 Huckleberry Mines Ltd. approved an extension of Huckleberry’s mine plan to include the saddle zone resource, which will provide for mill feed to extend milling operations from 2010 to the end of 2011. 

The saddle zone resource, located between the main zone pit and the main zone extension pit, has a high potential to provide additional extensions to the mine life depending on the copper price. 

Exploration to find additional reserves will be ongoing. Huckleberry Mine employs over 230 full time people. 

“It’s an optimistic light on the horizon for us economically,” said Nathan Cullen, MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley. 

“Many of us are strategically placed for getting at those jobs, and companies are also looking to hire locally, which is critical.”