A new mine could be up and running here in the Upper Columbia Valley as early as next year.
In January, the provincial chief gold commissioner approved a mine lease application for MGX Minerals Inc.’s planned Driftwood Creek magnesite mine, which will be located northwest of Brisco on the Driftwood forest service road.
“This is a major milestone for the project,” said MGX president and chief executive officer Jared Lazerson in a press release. “We would like to take this opportunity to express our appreciation for the support of everybody involved, at all levels of government, community and First Nations. I believe there is now reason for new optimism among the working men and women of the East Kootenay region.”
MGX, which is based in Vancouver, recently purchased the Tembec mill site in Cranbrook, which it plans to use to partially process the magnesite. The magnesite will then be transported elsewhere for further processing.
The project site is approximately 770 hectares (7.7 square kilometres) in size and is comprised of three mineral rights tenures. The magnesite at the location will be used as an alloy in steel-making.
The mine will be MGX’s flagship project. The company has already obtained a permit for the project from the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations’ archaeology branch.
Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) Area G director Gerry Wilkie mentioned the project this January during the annual political update given to the Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce by local municipal officials, saying it could be operational by 2017.
“There will be jobs stemming from this, although mining is pretty automated these day, so not as many jobs as you’d see with a mine in the past,” said Mr. Wilkie. “But there will certainly also be some spin-off economic benefits for the valley.”
MGX has already entered into a development agreement with Invermere-based Dominion Excavating Ltd. Under the agreement Dominion will provide services such as road construction and mine development for MGX in return for a stake in the company.
In late 2015, MGX received approval to mine a 100-ton bulk sample from the Driftwood Creek. The sample will be shipped to Rochester, New York for pilot plant testing.
Although actual operation of the mine is not likely to start until 2017, Lazerson said he hopes all permits and financing will be in place in several months time, allowing construction to begin in mid-2016.
MGX is planning to power the Driftwood Creek processing plants with a proprietary biomass gasification technology from Vancouver-based Highbury Energy Inc.
The gasification process would convert organic matter such as wood or agricultural waste into biogas that would then be used instead of natural gas in industrial kilns and furnaces. MGX touts the technology as a clean, low-cost energy source for operations at the mine.
Cranbrook-based VAST Resource Solutions Inc. has carried out environmental and engineering studies for MGX at the site, including environmental baseline, hydrogeology and reclamation studies.