Sixty North to resume gold mining at NWT’s Mon Mine
It has been nearly two decades since Yellowknife’s last gold mine closed. Sixty North Gold Mining is hoping to revive the industry.
The junior mining company said it plans to soon restart mining for gold at Mon Mine, located about 45 kilometres north of Yellowknife. Previously owned by Cominco, the small underground mine produced an estimated 15,000 ounces of gold between 1989 and 1997 before closing due to falling gold prices.
David Webb, president and chief executive of Sixty North, said his company has been permitted to mine and mill 100 tonnes a day at the site and plans to move into production this summer.
“We’re planning on bringing the crew in pretty much any time now,” he said. “We’ll contact our flight commander and see when they’re able to start taking off and landing on Back Bay.”
Webb said the small operation is the same size as Con Mine when it started in 1936 and the Discovery Mine in 1949.
The mine could remain open for years, Webb said, as it presently reaches just a fraction of the total depth of the Discovery and Con mines. He said it’s too soon to project a lifespan.
“The development of gold in Yellowknife has always been small operations and then building to larger ones,” he explained.
“We’re similar to all the other gold mines in Yellowknife, which grew over time to be substantial.”
Webb said his company is currently the only one permitted to mine for gold in the NWT. He is hoping the operation will help kickstart the revival of gold mining in Yellowknife.
“Once you have one established operation, other projects in the area expand their exploration,” he said. “We can now demonstrate that we can mine these and become economic. Without any mines in the area, that’s a very difficult hurdle to get over.”
Other companies exploring for gold in Yellowknife include Gold Terra, which has acquired the option to purchase the former Con Mine, and Gold Mining Inc.
The Mon gold property consists of 11 connected mining leases and three mineral claims spanning 622 hectares.
Sixty North built a winter road to the site in 2021 to transport mining equipment, camp and bulk supplies.
This year, the company plans to expand underground development and begin mining. Webb said if everything goes according to plan, the company will bring in a mill in 2023 to start processing rock and pouring gold bricks.
While gold mining has a long history in Yellowknife, so does its legacy of toxicity.
For many in the NWT, gold mining brings to mind the long-lasting environmental and social impacts of Giant Mine, where the gold roasting process emitted highly toxic arsenic trioxide dust. Today, 237,000 tonnes of arsenic trioxide remain stored in underground chambers at the site.
While the mine closed in 2004, full remediation of the site did not begin until last year and will cost at least a billion dollars.
Webb said environmental regulations have improved since Giant Mine opened in 1948. He said Sixty North’s operation will not involve gold roasting and the company’s mill will use gravity and flotation to recover gold, rather than cyanide.
Correction: June 3, 2022 – 10:21 MT. This article initially stated Giant Mine closed in 2002. Operations actually ceased in 2004.