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CanTung to rise again?

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

Fort Simpson (July 30/04) - The Dehcho First Nations may be offered minority ownership in the CanTung mine.

Trevor Harding, a consultant for North American Tungsten and a former Yukon government minister, said he plans to consult with the Dehcho First Nations and the Yukon's Kaska First Nation on business opportunities associated with the venture.

"There's no question that the First Nations, both from an ownership perspective and an economic involvement perspective, can play a substantial role," Harding said.

Reaction to the mine's possible re-opening was rather guarded from Herb Norwegian, Grand Chief of the Dehcho First Nations.

"I need to review the file on that before I can actually say something on that. I need to see where people's thinking is on those issues before making any outlandish comments," Norwegian said Monday, adding that he was would be on vacation over the next few weeks.

The DFN has been advocating expansion of Nahanni National Park Reserve and protecting the entire Nahanni watershed.

The mine was placed on care and maintenance status in December when it lost its financing deal. However, the Yukon government, which had maintained most of the road to the mine site, announced last week that talks of reopening CanTung have been revived. Tungsten prices have jumped significantly since the mine was mothballed.

North American Tungsten still owes millions to its unsecured creditors, but is hopeful the mine will be back in production by early 2005.

The company is seeking to exploit its MacTung deposits to the north of the mine site, which is located just inside the NWT border.

Establishment of a $6 million tungsten refining plant at the mine would increase CanTung's economic prospects, according to Harding.

The mine employed 170 people while in operation. The refinement plant would boost that number.

Liability payment due

The mine will not go back into production until North American Tungsten makes its scheduled security deposit payment of $1.5 million, said Malcolm Robb, acting director mineral and petroleum resources for the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development in Yellowknife. North American Tungsten is responsible for a total of $7.9 million in reclamation liability payments over the five-year life of its recently renewed water licence.

"In order for them to actually operate the mine, they have to be in compliance with their licence," Robb said Monday.

Harding replied that North American Tungsten will honour any commitments it has made, but added that there must be more discussion on environmental issues.

"The final chapters on that have not been written," he said.