Rejected in 2008, Kemess gold-copper mine proposal on table again – by Wendy Stueck (Globe and Mail – March 10, 2014)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

VANCOUVER — A mine rejected in 2008 on environmental grounds is back in play, with a different company at the helm and plans for an underground, rather than an open-pit, operation.

Toronto-based AuRico Gold filed a project description for the Kemess Underground Mine Project with the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office last month, reviving plans for a gold-copper deposit about 250 kilometres north of Smithers and about 6.5 kilometres north of former producer Kemess South Mine, which was in production from 1988 to 2011.

In the years leading up to Kemess South being depleted, former owner Northgate Minerals made plans to extend operations by developing the nearby Kemess North deposit. Plans at the time called for disposing of tailings and waste rock from expanded operations in Duncan Lake, also known as Amazay Lake.

That plan did not sit well with aboriginal groups that had historic and cultural connections to the lake. In 2007, a federal review panel concluded Kemess North as it was then designed was not in the public interest “because of significant adverse environmental, social and cultural effects, some of which may not emerge until many years after mining operations cease.”

After reviewing the panel decision, Ottawa in March, 2008, said the project should not go ahead.

That was a major setback for Northgate, which was acquired by AuRico Gold in a friendly, $1.5-billion deal in 2011.

Even before that deal closed, attempts were under way to find a way to put Kemess North back on the table – which meant giving up the notion of using Duncan Lake as a tailings site.

“It was obvious that to get social licence [for the project], we had to do a far better job of explaining and engaging with First Nations,” said Chris Rockingham, who was formerly with Northgate and is now vice-president of business development with AuRico. “To get a discussion going, we made a commitment that we would not consider using Amazay Lake for any purpose related to mining.”

The current proposal calls for tailings to be disposed of in the old open pit.

AuRico has also been able to develop its feasibility plan based on copper and gold prices that are significantly higher than they were when Northgate was pursuing the project.

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