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CanTung to resume

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

Fort Simpson (Jun 29/01) - CanTung Mine is slated to be back in production by December, according to North American Tungsten Corporation president Udo von Doehren.

He said he has invited First Nations leaders from the Deh Cho and the Yukon to tour the mine site and discuss contracting and employment opportunities.

"We'd be more than happy to meet with them ... so they can go back to their communities and see what the capacity is for them to participate," he said from the company's Vancouver headquarters last week.

At the scheduled production rate of 3,000 tons of tungsten annually, CanTung Mine would produce approximately eight per cent of the world's consumption. Including contract workers, the mine is expected to employ up to 175 people.

Shane Parrish, chief executive officer of the Acho Dene Koe group of companies in Fort Liard, said his organization is interested in providing catering services at the mine site. Supplying heavy equipment and airplanes for crew changes are also possibilities, he added.

"They definitely say there's going to be some opportunities there," Parrish said. "It helps us diversify a little bit. We're very focused on oil and gas ... so we definitely want to diversify."

The mine site lies within the NWT's borders, but will be supplied by a road through the Yukon.

Liidli Kue First Nation Chief Rita Cli said she has already urged DIAND Minister Robert Nault to ensure that the NWT's First Nations don't get shortchanged in favour of the Yukon.

"I'd like (North American Tungsten representatives) to sit down with us and talk to us," she said. "What kind of work are you looking at, and is there any potential there for our people?"

Environmental concerns

Cli said she is also worried about potential contamination of the nearby waterways.

"We're aware of the devastation that can happen," she said. "We have to make sure we do this right because not only will it affect the Deh Cho, it will affect all the people down river ... our elders said water is our most precious resource."

CanTung was in operation between 1962 and 1986 without any adverse environmental impacts, von Doehren said.

"In addition, tungsten is benign," he said.

North American Tungsten is in possession of a valid water licence. It's effective until September 2002, at which time the company would apply for renewal, von Doehren said.