If everything goes according to plan, Greenstone could be home to a pair of producing gold mines in less than four years.
Premier Gold Mines Ltd. is getting closer to bringing their Hardrock project to fruition and are targeting construction in 2016 followed by development the next year.
Premier Gold Mines president and CEO Ewan Downie said the project is very important to the company.
“In terms of expenditures it’s our number one property in 2014,” Downie said at the Grow Greenstone Expo last week.
“In terms of gold ounces it’s number one to our company and the project we’re putting most of our internal efforts towards in moving forward to development.”
Premier will spend the next year conducting a feasibility study, which is scheduled to be released in 2015.
If that is successful, the company will then pursue the required permits and environmental assessment procedures to head toward a production decision.
That decision will likely be determined by the markets and commodity prices.
“The price of metal has come down in the last couple of years and it’s been harmful to a lot of stock prices and harder to raise finances,” Downie said.
“But for some of the more established companies with real deposits there is still a pretty solid market for raising funds to build a mining operation.”
For Greenstone mayor Renald Beaulieu, the project has the potential to provide a shot of adrenaline to the entire region. It is estimated the project could create as many as 340 new jobs.
He said even though the Ring of Fire project may be stalling, it has still allowed the community to prepare for large-scale mining operations.
“It’s really important for bringing back the morale to our community and it’s not good for just Greenstone, it’s good for all of Northwestern Ontario,” Beaulieu said.
“As a municipality what’s nice is because of all the hype around the Ring of Fire we were getting ourselves prepared. As a community, we’ve done our homework in regards to where we can locate people and the number of lots available for residential and commercial.”
There will have to be some significant hurdles cleared before the project can be brought to fruition.
One of the open pit mines would dramatically change the landscape of Geraldton.
Under the current proposal, at least half of the Kenogamisis Golf Club will be lost, as well as the OPP station that was built less than one decade ago and a residential neighbourhood. The highway would also have to be rerouted.
Downie said he is optimistic those challenges would be addressed, pointing out that moving highways for mining operations is not unprecedented.
“It’s been done a lot for mining in Canada in the past,” Downie said. “It’s not the first time a company has said infrastructure has to be moved to make this a reality.”
Beaulieu said the reception in the Greenstone community has been mostly positive to this point.
However, he noted they need to know a little more of the specific details of the project, especially for those who will be directly affected.
“We have to know more about where all of this is going but we’re preparing for it,” he said. “We do have existing land but for the citizens that are being displaced we might have to look at something different because of where they are strategically located.”
Downie said Premier has been open and forthcoming with area residents about the scope of the project. The company has hosted open houses and set up community relations offices.