If TMAC Resources Inc. wanted to, it could start mining two new gold projects on its Hope Bay property, 125 kilometres southwest of Cambridge Bay.

The company announced on Jan. 15 that it had received approval for two Type A water licences for its Boston and Madrid gold projects, concluding the environmental permitting necessary to develop those sites.

TMAC president and CEO Jason Neal told Nunavut News that the company will “probably” begin recovering ore, and delivering it to the already-operating Doris North gold mine and processing plant, late this year.

“Already, there’s roads [to Madrid],” said Neal. “If we decide to, the first ore that would go to the plant in 2019 would be from surface crown pillar.”

Surface crown pillars are parts of the ore bodies that outcrop on the surface on the land.

At Doris North, which poured its first gold brick in 2017, the company was recovering gold from the same sort of structure in the fourth quarter of 2018.

TMAC Resources Inc. finished the permitting process to mine two new sites at its Hope Bay project, pictured here last summer. Photo courtesy of TMAC Resources Inc.

At Madrid, TMAC would mine the crown pillar while starting to tunnel down towards the ore body underground.

“It provides us a little flexibility in feeding the Doris mill,” said Neal, adding that the rock dug-out could also be used for road-building.

While the Boston site is permitted for operation, TMAC is still conducting exploration there to further define the amount of gold it holds.

“Boston is really interesting,” said Neal.

“It’s one of the strongest ore bodies, for sure, and also has a lot of prospectivity to grow. When Newmont finished with the Hope Bay project in 2013, Boston was what they were most excited about and we really haven’t spent much of anything in exploration down there.”

Given its potential, TMAC’s permit application for Boston was much more aggressive than what they laid out in their pre-feasibility study, published in 2015.

While TMAC still plans to truck ore north to Doris, more than 50 kilometres away, for processing, the approved permit gives the company the option to put a processing plant in at Boston if the deposit lives up to its potential and holds enough gold to make a larger project there feasible — complete with more jobs at that site, said Neal.

The permits also allow TMAC to expand its port infrastructure and to construct a wind farm to provide the sites some non-diesel energy. The company is studying the feasibility of wind energy right now.

The Madrid and Boston sites could lead to roughly a doubling of the workforce needed at the site, according to Alex Buchan, vice president of corporate social responsibility for TMAC.

He says it could also lead to twice as much opportunity for local contractors.

As to the Inuit workforce, both Neal and Buchan said the company is working to try to get training in place for local workers.

“We’re hiring Inuit as aggressively as we possibly can,” said Neal.

In recommending the approval of the licences, Nunavut Impact Review Board panel chair Allen Maghagak said the board has seen widespread support for the project and is confident TMAC can mitigate the environmental impacts of the site.

The terms and conditions of the licences, as recommended by the board, take the cautious route where there isn’t the data to make a full plan — such as on the impacts of caribou due to truck traffic during construction and mining at Boston.

As for Doris, Neal says the project is producing more gold in a more efficient manner with each quarter.

While TMAC had been aiming early last year to mine 420,00 to 470,000 tonnes of ore at 10 to 11 grams of gold per tonne in 2018, Neal said he couldn’t discuss the final count as TMAC has not yet released its fourth-quarter results for the year.

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