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NICO is a go
Green light given to Fortune Minterals' gold-cobalt-bismuth-copper mine

Lyndsay Herman
Northern News Services
Published Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Permitting and financing are all that stand in the way of Fortune Minerals' NICO project now the federal and Tlicho governments have given their approval to the project.

NNSL photo/graphic

This rendering represents what the NICO pit, mill and campsite will eventually look like. - photo courtesy of Fortune Minerals Ltd.

"What this does for Fortune Minerals is give us a sense of certainty in terms of moving forward with things like scheduling," said Richard Schryer, the director of regulatory and environmental affairs with Fortune Minerals. "Now that this is out of the way, we can do some better planning in terms of how we're going to develop things, when we're going to buy expensive pieces of equipment, things like that.

"It also gives us an advantage in trying to find financing and/or joint venture partners for the project now that they know the project is approved."

The Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review board recommended approval of the project by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) and the Tlicho Government conditional on 13 measures and commitments in January.

Troy Nazarewicz, Fortune's investor relations manager, said the goal is to start construction on NICO next summer and reach production by late 2015 or early 2016.

Approximately 400 people are expected to be employed at the site during the peak of construction.

This project's approval was unique in the NWT, in that it was the first time the Tlicho Government was able to exercise it's authority on projects situated in Tlicho lands on par with the federal government.

During the public hearings last winter, other aboriginal groups expressed their opinions of the project, but most with an eye to the Tlicho's role in the final approval.

"The project is in Tlicho territory and the Yellowknives Dene First Nation respect it's their voice that matters most here," said Todd Slack of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation Land and Environment Department to News/North in an interview on Monday. "If they are are satisfied with the decision, the YKDFN respects that."

Slack said the only concern the YKDFN has about the project going forward comes from a rewording of measure eight, which required the GNWT and Tlicho Government to establish a working group responsible for implementing a response framework for managing cumulative impacts of the project on caribou.

The original wording of the measure required a report on the response framework within six months. However, the final wording of the measure no longer requires setting a deadline.

While the change doesn't necessitate a problem, it creates the potential for detrimental delays, Slack said.

Meanwhile in Saskatchewan

Fortune's NICO project requires a hydrometallurgical plant in northern Saskatchewan in addition to the mine and mill, located 50 kilometres northeast of Whati.

Ore mined and processed in the NWT will be shipped their via rail.

The plant is at a similar regulatory stage in Saskatchewan as the rest of the project is in the NWT.

"We are almost done the environmental assessment process in Saskatchewan," Schryer said. "The basic steps are the same ... It's moving at about the same rate as NICO. There's no point in moving it along faster than NICO because there's not going to be any ore to ship down.

"It would be pointless to have it move forward faster than the mine itself."

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