Newmont fast-tracks Nunavut’s second gold mine
“We’re full-speed ahead”
Newmont Mining Corp.’s Hope Bay gold mine project has ramped up its activity this summer, so that the mine can meet its goal of churning out ore, possibly by 2011.
“We’re full-speed ahead,” said Alex Buchan, manager of community and external relations for the future mine, located 90 kilometres south of Cambridge Bay.
The decision to proceed with a mine at Newmont’s Doris North property, part of the larger Hope Bay complex, was made last November, Buchan said.
In 2007, Newmont, the second largest gold producer in the world, bought Hope Bay’s three properties from Miramar Mining Corp. for $1.5 billion, but then decided in 2008 to put any mining development there on ice until economic conditions improved.
Underground mining at the Doris North is now slated to start this fall. Ore will be stockpiled until the mill is fully operational, Buchan said.
Now there are about 230 workers on site, but, by this time next year, there will be 400 workers there, Buchan estimates.
Workers will live at the already-finished 170-bed residence at Doris North and others in hotel-like barges that are being delivered to the site this summer.
At the same time that it’s working to open the Doris North mine, Newmont also wants to increase its Inuit employment.
Buchan said Inuit employment numbers have improved “dramatically” this year.
In 2008 the company showed 24 per cent Inuit employment among its workers. This now stands at 26 per cent— up to 80 workers who work on three-week rotations from Cambridge Bay and other communities, mainly in the Kitikmeot region.
To train workers for the mine, Newmont, in collaboration with the Kitikmeot Inuit Association and Kitikmeot Corp., has offered diamond drilling training, a kimberlite summer trades camp and geo-technical training for geology assistants.
A “Skills for Work Program,” a new Newmont-funded partnership between Newmont, Alberta’s Bow Valley College, Nunavut Arctic College and the Kitikmeot communities is set to start up shortly, Buchan said.
This program will offer a 16-weeks of instruction on literacy and other job-related skills, which will lead to at least eight apprenticeships at the mine.
Mill operator training will also be available, he said.
The training efforts are part of Newmont’s “Inuit talent pipeline approach” that aims to funnel top candidates from the programs into apprenticeships and traineeships at the mine.
This summer a major sealift operation is also underway at Doris North, with 12 barges, six tugs, three ships carrying 20,000 tonnes of cargo and 22 million litres of fuel due to arrive at the site.
Geologists are also scouting for more deposits to prolong the two-and-a-half year lifespan of Doris North.
For now, the project’s permit only allows it to operate for this period of time, but Newmont wants to see this expanded and prolonged until 2016.
Newmont also wants to develop other deposits in its neighbouring Madrid and Boston properties, Buchan said.
The company plans to submit a new project proposal to the Nunavut Impact Review Board later in 2010 for this “Phase Two” of the mining project.
This expansion will also require a new environmental impact statement and new Inuit impact and benefits agreement.
The target is to have all permits and deals for the expanded operation in place by 2014.
If all goes ahead as planned, more undergound and open pit mining will continue at Hope Bay until 2029.
Buchan recently toured the Kitikmeot communities to talk about Newmont’s plans for Doris North and the other deposits around Hope Bay.
Interest was high in the number of jobs— which could reach as high as 800 or more on site during the second phase of development— and in the possible environmental impacts, Buchan said.
There will be many other opportunities for the communities to speak out during the next four years as the mine development moves into new public consultation, he said.
Another gold mine project in Nunavut is also forging ahead.
Agnico-Eagle Mines announced this week that it has begun an “aggressive” exploration program at its Meliadine project near Rankin Inlet and plans to complete a feasibility study on Meliadine in 2013.
The company also said Sept. 8 that it has increased its total exploration budget by around 45 per cent to $110-million for Meliadine and other properties.