TORONTO — Toronto-based NorZinc Ltd. has announced the signing of a traditional land use agreement with the Nah?a Dehe Dene Band for the construction of a 180-kilometre all-season road to connect the company’s zinc/lead/silver Prairie Creek Mine to the Liard Highway in the Northwest Territories.
The band is based in Nahanni Butte, the nearest community to the Prairie Creek Mine, said a Jan. 16 release. The mine site and the route of the road are within the band’s traditional territory.
NorZinc’s vice-president of corporate development Steve Dawson said the next steps in the project are obtaining the road permit, expected by the third quarter of 2019, followed by financing, expected within 12 months with $300 million required.
If road permitting is obtained, road construction would begin in the first quarter of 2020 and work on the mine site would start mid-year.
Road construction is expected to be completed by August 2022, when mining would begin. Other goals for 2019 identified in a media statement include completing detailed engineering for the road and negotiating the contracts for construction.
The mine was initially developed in the 1980s but was never placed into production, notes the firm’s website. Existing infrastructure includes a 1,000-ton-per-day mill, five kilometres of underground works, a 1,000-metre gravel airstrip, administration, warehouse and workshop buildings with supporting infrastructure including a seven-million-litre diesel fuel tank storage farm, and over 50 kilometres of exploration roads.
The release said the intent of the land use agreement with the Nah?a Dehe is to confirm the band’s support for the road and deliver supplemental benefits beyond an existing impact benefits agreement (IBA) signed with the band in 2011 that supported the mine development.
At the time of the original IBA, access to the proposed mine was planned to be by winter road. The release said it was later concluded that an all-season road would provide significantly improved operational efficiencies and better economic confidence for the mine.
“NorZinc is very pleased to sign this important land use agreement,” said the firm’s CEO Don MacDonald in the statement.
“We are very grateful to the Nah?a Dehe Dene Band for their collaborative support which has made possible by this very positive step toward the development of the Prairie Creek Mine. It is so important that the all-season road has the support of the local Aboriginal communities, and that those who live closest to the access road particularly will benefit from its operation.”
Chief Darrell Betsaka, chief of the Nah?a Dehe Dene Band, said, “In this agreement, NorZinc and the Nah?a Dehe Dene Band acknowledge their mutual intentions that the all-season road will be developed and operated in a manner that respects the land, the environment and cultures of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples of the north.
“The agreement will supplement our existing IBA and mean further jobs, training and education, business opportunities and financial benefits for our people for many years to come and will facilitate access to our traditional territory.”