Proposed gold mine would bring jobs to city

A proposed underground mine approximately 500 kilometres north of the city could bring hundreds of jobs to Prince George.

Centerra Gold sustainability and community development manager Joanna Miller updated the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George board about the Kemess Underground project on Feb. 20. The Canadian mining company currently operates the Mount Milligan copper/gold mine west of Mackenzie and owns the shuttered Endako molybdenum mine 17 km west of Fraser Lake.

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The proposed Kemess Underground copper and gold mine would be located six kilometres from the now-closed Kemess South open pit mine, Miller said. Between 1998 and 2011 when it closed, the Kemess South mine produced three million ounces of gold and 750 million pounds of copper. 

The new Kemess Underground mine would use much of the same infrastructure as the former open pit mine, Miller said, reducing the cost and footprint of the mine.

"This (Kemess Underground) is a fly-in, fly-out operation. Kemess Underground will fly in and out of Prince George. We previously flew out of Smithers," Miller said.

During the four to five year construction period, the mine would employ approximately 575 people, she said. Once complete, the mine would employee approximately 475 people full-time on a two weeks in, two weeks out rotation for the 11-year life of the mine.

The proposed design is for a block cave mine, she said, which means tunnels will be dug  200 metres to 500 metres beneath the surface and the mine will then dig up into the gold and copper deposit from underneath.

"It's a bit of an interesting way to mine. There is no impact on the surface," she said. "All that will be visible on the surface is a slight depression."

Once operational, the mine will process 25 to 35 tons of ore per day, Miller said.

The proposed Kemess Underground mine has now received all regulatory approvals and is just waiting on the Centerra Gold board of directors to approve starting construction, she added.

Miller also offered an update on the status of the closed Endako mine. The molybdenum operated from 1965 until it was closed in July 2015, because of low prices for the metal.

"As of right now we have no plans to restart that mine," Miller said. "It does have about nine years of mine life left, and when the price of moly changes we'll reopen that mine."

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