MMG promises jobs galore for western Nunavut
Izok Corridor's mines could start production in 2018
CAMBRIDGE BAY — When representatives from the Minerals and Metals Group visited Cambridge Bay Sept. 27 to talk about plans for their Izok Corridor zinc and copper mine project, George Okhina turned out to hear what they had to say.
Okhina, who has work experience as painter/decorator, journeyman building maintenance, heavy equipment operator, geo-tecnician, incinerator operator, and class 3 truck driver, was recently laid off from the Jericho diamond mine when it closed operations again. Not too long before that, he got a lay-off slip from the Hope Bay mine, which Newmont Gold decided to place in “care and maintenance” earlier this year.
Now, if he doesn’t land a job in town, Okhina may find his future job with MMG, which has more than 8,500 employees worldwide.
If MMG’s huge Izok Corridor project moves ahead, during its two-year construction period 1,140 people will find work, and then 710 will have jobs during the mines’ 12-year lifespan, working on fly-in, fly-out rotations.
The construction jobs could start flowing to people in Nunavut’s Kitikmeot region by 2015, if the project moves smoothly through the regulatory process. Production would start in 2018.
At the MMG presentation, Okhina and a handful other others heard about the company’s ambitious plans for the 300-kilometre corridor between Izok Lak and High Lake.
The Chinese-controlled MMG announced Sept. 4 that it planned to submit its Izok Corridor project proposal to the Nunavut Impact Review Board and other authorizing agencies to start the environmental assessment and regulatory review process. MMG has also started a feasibility study for the mine complex.
That $50-million feasibility study is expected to take 18 to 24 months to complete.
MMG’s project includes the rich zinc and copper deposits located near Izok Lake and High Lake..
The proposed Izok mine, with an open pit and underground mine under Izok Lake, would include a two-million-tonne per year concentrator, which would also process the ore from the High Lake mine.
As for the proposed transportation route, it would be a 350-kilometre all-weather road to connect the Izok Lake mine to High Lake, the second zinc-copper mine, with two open pit mines and one underground mine.
MMG also proposes building new airstrips at Izok Lake, High Lake and Grays Bay, along with a new port at Grays Bay with the capacity to ship 650,000 tonnes of concentrate per year.,
The project calls for 10 to 15 shipments a year to run east during an 80-day window from mid-July to October, except for the last run of the season, which would head west.
No year-round ice breaking will take place, the proposal says. Ships will avoid unnecessary ship acceleration, keep to the same course whemever possible and maintain a minimum distance from the shore.
On the haul road, MMG says it will make provisions for caribou crossing, close the road during the calving season and make water crossing to protect fish stocks.
Harry Maksagak, a former worker at the Lupin Mine, who attended the MMG presentation, reminded MMG to think about the social impact of the future mine project on its employees — such as the need for a help line and budgeting support for workers.
“We need to smooth out the social aspects,” Maksagak said.
For now, the pre-feasibility or the project says the Izok Corridor project is “marginally profitable.”
But this could be the mineral-rich area’s big chance to move ahead.
The on-again, off-again property has passed through the hands of many owners, none of whom ever figured out how to economically mine and transport the region’s huge stores of zinc, copper and lead.
The MMG group emerged after 2009, when state-owned China Minmetals Corp. gobbled up nearly all mines and exploration projects controlled by Australia’s debt-ridden Oz Minerals Ltd.
The good news is that MMG’s approvals manager Scott Trussler, said MMG is looking for new sources of zinc and copper.
And MMG has the money to pay for the Izok Corridor project, although Trussler could not offer a price tag for the project’s estimated construction cost.