A company hoping to restart gold mining around Yellowknife says the next two years of exploration will likely determine whether its current plan goes ahead.
Gold Terra, which recently acquired the option to purchase the city’s former Con gold mine, says indications of more gold must be found before a new mine near Yellowknife could be viable.
Gerald Panneton, Gold Terra’s chief executive, on Wednesday held an in-person briefing for residents for the first time in two years. (Panneton promised, with pandemic restrictions lifting, a return to sessions every six months.)
“Are we sure we’re going to build a mine? No, we’re not,” Panneton said. “We’re in a good place. It will probably take until the end of 2023 to see how much we have.”
At the moment, Gold Terra’s focus lies in two places: the area around the former Con mine, just south of Yellowknife, and drilling sites north of the city such as Mispickel, a site on Walsh Lake.
The company has an inferred resource of 1.2 million ounces of gold on its property to date. Panneton says the threshold that makes a new mine realistic will be finding another two million ounces “of good grade, in one place.”
If opening a mine is a progression from A to Z, he said, “we’re probably in the first five letters.”
Even so, residents on Wednesday wondered what the immediate future held for the Con mine site.
The Con Mine, for many years a major gold producer, closed in 2003 and is in the final stages of remediation. The former homes of mine workers have become a neighbourhood practically backing on to the mine.
Now, Gold Terra is carrying out fresh drilling in the region of Con and using local trails for access. Each 1,000-metre drilling hole is costing the company some $400,000, Panneton said, stating drilling in the area will continue throughout the year ahead.
While Panneton said the company might seek to alter trails around Con to improve drilling access, he also raised the prospect of the company helping to put in new trails for residents to use.
Only with more information from upcoming drilling, he said, will Gold Terra know whether resuming mining in the Con area is viable. That will determine whether the company goes ahead with its option to purchase Con from existing owner Newmont.
Two hundred jobs
Ultimately, Gold Terra imagines more mining – and more milling – happening north of the city.
Panneton expressed excitement about Walsh Lake’s Mispickel site on Wednesday, saying the first drilling in the area for five years had delivered significant quantities of visible gold at drill sites and could herald “a very good asset for the company and for Yellowknife.”
Drilling there cannot now resume until the next winter season.
The discoveries to date lead Gold Terra to envisage a mine spread across two sites: a larger mine and mill north of the city, with a smaller quantity of ore trucked north to the mill from the Con site. Having a mill outside the city will “keep the town free of dust and free of noise,” Panneton said.
Future mine operations could create 20 mill jobs and a total of around 200 jobs at twin mine sites, he told one resident in a question-and-answer session.
But Panneton emphasized any such development is years away and would first have to go through the permitting process outlined by the territory’s environmental regulators. If all goes to plan, Gold Terra hopes to begin preparing for that process by compiling a feasibility study in 2024.
“It’s early, but you need to have a strategy,” he said. “There’s plenty of time for talking about every aspect of any development in the region.
“The potential is still there. I see it. It would be nice to have a good start-up and hopefully the Con Mine will give us that.”