The company, Spanish Mountain Gold Ltd., has quietly been at work bringing a gold mine near Likely to fruition.
In March it announced it had signed a memorandum of understanding with the Williams Lake Indian Band that recognized the other’s rights and interests in the area as well as formalized ongoing training and employment opportunities. The company is hopeful to develop a similar MOU with Xat’sull First Nations (Soda Creek).
Ron Halas, company chief operating officer, says this approach of recognition, communication and collaboration is integral to the operation’s success, part of the company’s mandate and does not only take into account First Nations interests but also communities surrounding the mine.
“We are very committed to working with the communities every step of the way. It’s important to us and it’s part of the commitment of Spanish Mountain Gold,” he says.
Spanish Mountain Gold Ltd., formerly Sky Gold Ventures, is 100 per cent owner of the site six kilometres out of Likely. SMG has three other operations — one near Canim Lake and two near Prince George.
The Likely site is its most developed and in recent years SMG has poured an estimated $40 million dollars into the project through exploration drilling, environmental studies and a preliminary economic assessment. That assessment, completed in 2010, was based primarily on financial considerations and, while drawing many conclusions, it identified a tailings storage facility for the mine to be in Cedar Creek downstream of Boswell Lake.
However, according to a company newsletter, management and the board of directors determined that was “unacceptable” and that tailings would be stored outside of any streams, lakes and fish habitat.
“Tailings from the Spanish Mountain Project will not be stored in a stream or a lake,” was the directive from both management and board.
The company recently submitted a project description to the provincial and federal governments that is identified as the “beginning of the permitting process;” it is also the start of an environmental assessment.
That assessment, says Halas, requires the company to demonstrate the potential impacts of the project and outline the steps it would take to mitigate negative effects, the economic benefit, and environmental mitigation and reclamation. During this phase, community consultation — further to that which SMG has already conducted — will be mandatory.
Halas expects if that process proceeds smoothly permits could be in hand by the end of 2012. Construction could proceed at that point with a plan to have the mine open by the end of 2013. He calls that timeline a “best case scenario.”
A preliminary economic assessment has identified a mill being built that could process 40,000 tonnes of ore per day.
The mine would be an open-pit configuration.
The assessment indicates a 10-year mine life that in the first five years could produce in excess of 200,000 ounces of gold per year. SMG hopes to increase its gold resource by engaging in additional drilling and exploration of the property.
A preliminary study further suggests that the mine could create 284 full-time jobs once it is in production.
That, says Halas, could break down to 104 working at the mine; 100 working at the mill and processing plant and 40 employed in administrative and supervisory roles.
Halas insists the company will not only hire locally but source locally.
“SMG is very committed to making sure this project benefits the local and surrounding communities. We want to make sure this is a community effort,” he says.
Spanish Mountain Gold Ltd. is a B.C.-based resource company that is publicly traded with shares on the TSX. SMG acquired the project in 2005.
On June 14 SMG will host a community information session about the project from 7-9 p.m. at the Gibraltar Room in Williams Lake.