Chris Pharness, Barkerville Gold Mines Ltd.’s Vice-President of Environment and Sustainability, takes questions following his presentation at the company’s community meeting Tuesday, Sept. 17 at the Barlow Creek Hall. Lindsay Chung photo

Barkerville Gold Mines getting closer to finalizing project description for new mine

The Cariboo Gold Project is a proposed underground mine near Wells with an 11-year mine life

As Barkerville Gold Mines Ltd. (BGM) gets closer to finalizing the project description for the Cariboo Gold Project (CGP) Environmental Assessment, a proposed new underground mine near Wells, the company is continuing to gather more input from communities.

BGM held a community meeting Tuesday, September 17 at the Barlow Creek Hall, where Chris Pharness, BGM’s Vice -President of Environment and Sustainability, and consultants with WSP Engineering provided information about the company and its work. A dozen people attended the meeting.

BGM is currently in the planning and development stage of its Cariboo Gold Project, an underground mine near the Jack O’ Clubs Lake at the site where the old historic Cariboo Gold Quartz Mine operated from the 1930s to the 1960s. Pharness stated that the Project is maximizing use of existing disturbed areas to minimize new disturbance and noted this is preferable to using pristine areas. Once mining is completed, the areas used by the mine will be left in a better condition than they are today.

The nearest house to the mine site is 350 metres away.

“That’s why most of this infrastructure is going to be going developed underground, and we’re relying engaging on the community of Wells and others to provide us with input going forward on how they want to see this mine designed and developed,” said Pharness. “People shouldn’t feel helpless or hopeless about these kinds of developments. In this day and age, people have a lot of input and a lot to say about this kind of stuff.”

BGM is working with the communities to ensure input is received and considered in the project studies and project planning, and input received will be reflected in the application submitted to the government.

There is an 11-year mine life for the Cariboo Gold Project, and the mine is expected to provide 320 full-time operations jobs and 120 construction jobs.

“We just got the preliminary economic assessment filed today, and it was positive — things are looking good, and it’s a good project,” said Pharness.

The CGP would include underground mining and ore crushing 24 hours a day, seven days a week, waste rock storage, a and a concentrator and a paste backfill plant. To begin with, the mine would use diesel generators for power.

Along with support buildings such as offices, a warehouse, shops and storage, there would be a new camp for 139 workers, and the site would have water management and water treatment.

Ore would be concentrated at the mine site and then trucked to BGM’s existing QR Mill 58 kilometres southeast of Quesnel and 111 kilometres from Wells via Highway 26 and the 500/Nyland Lake Forest Service Road, following the same route as the ore that is being trucked to QR from BGM’s Bonanza Ledge Mine on Barkerville Mountain near Wells. Once there, the ore would be processed at the QR Mill, and BGM would do upgrades to the existing mill and build a new tailings dewatering (thickening and filtering) plant. An existing camp for about 40 people would be used, and there would be a filtered tailings storage facility at the site.

A highway bypass to the CGP mine site would be built to avoid trucking ore in through the community of Wells.

Waste rock would move from the mine site to BGM’s existing waste rock site at the Bonanza Ledge Mine.

To power the mine, BGM is proposing building a new 69kV transmission line from the Barlow Substation near Quesnel to the mine site. The option currently being looked at would generally follow the existing power line corridor along Highway 26, and the existing lines would be moved to new poles. There would be a new substation at the mine site. BGM has initiated discussions with BC Hydro, and these are ongoing.

“We’ve had a lot of discussions with BC Hydro about how in the end we can legacy that transmission line, too,” said Pharness. “At the end of the day, BC Hydro will take that line over from us. As sort of a legacy idea, we’ve always talked about having that power available for Wells, Barkerville and that area and Troll, so that’s something that’s ongoing in our discussions with BC Hydro.”

There will be no power upgrades at the QR Mill site.

Cariboo Regional District Vice-Chair John Massier asked if there would be any excess power available for other users.

Pharness said that the mine will need about 12 megawatts, so there would be excess capacity.

“I think that would be critical, to be able to have other users make use of the power at the other end, whether it’s Wells or Barkerville or anyone looking to start a business who needs three-phase power in that area,” said Massier.

After the meeting, BGM clarified that the future of the line, including the desire of local communities to access power, is currently being discussed with BC Hydro.

Pharness says right now, the trucking is proposed as seasonal.

“We’re trying to get our stockpiles increased a bit. Around breakup, the roads get pretty bad, but I don’t think it will ever be 24 hours a day,” he said, adding he thinks it will probably be 12 hours a day during daylight hours and likely most of the year except for a month or a month and a half around during breakup.

Pharness says it would probably be 20 to 25 loads per day, which is similar to what’s coming out of the Bonanza Ledge Mine.

The CGP is currently in the provincial government’s Environmental Assessment process, and BGM says they are currently finalizing the project description.

Once the Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) accepts the project description, it will be posted on their website for people to see.

The next step is confirming what should be studied, which are valued components.

BGM says their current plan is to submit the application to the government EAO in the second quarter of 2020, at which point the government would start its application review. If the project was is approved, construction would begin in 2021 and 2022.

During the meeting, Dave Jorgenson of Wells raised concerns about logging around the proposed new transmission line along Highway 26.

“We’ve got a land and resource management plan for the Quesnel Forest District, and I just wondered if anybody’s, presumably this has to go by [the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development] but the communities, we’ve worked hard at creating visual quality objectives that support the tourism objectives of our community, and this, off the top of my head, it seems like it would disrupt that vision,” he said.

BGM indicated that development of the transmission line will require clearing along the right of way, and outside the right of way, they would have to remove some danger trees that have the potential to fall into the power line, but after construction, the understory is allowed to grow up to a certain height specified by BC Hydro, so there will be some regrowth.

Ahead of the meeting, BGM and WSP mailed out more than 170 letters to property owners along the existing power line telling them about Tuesday’s meeting and making sure they are aware of the project.

BGM held another community meeting in Wells on Sept. 18.

READ MORE: Barkerville Gold Mines hopes to initiate environmental review process for proposed underground mine near Wells



editor@quesnelobserver.com

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