Fortune Minerals to Build Hydromet Plant
The NICO mine is located 160 km northwest of the Yellowknife, 22 km west of the Snare hydro complex and 50 km northeast of the community of Whati, NWT. NICO is a proposed vertically integrated project to mine and process ores to produce gold doré, cobalt and bismuth cathodes, and a minor amount of copper and nickel by-products.
The company confirmed that the project’s mine, mill and flotation concentrator will be constructed in the NWT as originally planned. However, the downstream hydrometallurgical section of the process plant, consisting of pressure and acid leaching followed by electro-winning; along with the gold leach circuit, will be built at a site in southern Canada. Fortune Minerals has short-listed four sites in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and plans to acquire one of these sites shortly.
Approximately 80,000 mt of metal concentrates produced at NICO each year will be transported from the property by truck to the rail head at Hay River, NWT, for delivery by rail to the hydromet facility.
Fortune claims the economic, social and environmental benefits of relocating the facility to southern Canada include a significant reduction in the amount of process and construction materials to be transported to the NWT during construction; lower power costs (electricity rates in the NWT are projected to be more than 20¢/kWh compared with rates as low as 3.7¢ per kWh in some southern provinces); and savings in reagent transportation to the NWT that will offset approximately half the costs of transporting metal concentrates to the hydromet plant. In addition, moving the process facilities to southern Canada will eliminate the need for most of the process chemicals at the NICO site and will remove some waste products from processing, both simplifying the management of waste rock and tailings and helping to reduce treatment, monitoring and bonding costs, according to the company.
Fortune noted that labor requirements for the mine and concentrator as well as additional personnel required to transport concentrates south can be easily sourced from the existing labor pool in the NWT. Conversely, engineers and chemical plant operators would need to be imported from southern Canada to work at a remote site and will now have the opportunity to commute daily from their homes.
The company also said that existing and planned hydro power in the NWT can’t satisfy the increased power loads at NICO as a result of recent operational improvements, but could supply the 9 MW of electrical demand from the mine and concentrator. Selling hydro power to the NICO development presents an attractive longterm, environmentally sustainable business opportunity for the local Tlicho people and NWT government.