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Vol. 12, No. 21 Week of May 27, 2007
Providing coverage of Alaska and Northwest Canada's mineral industry

MINING NEWS: Canadian firms team up at Galore Creek

NovaGold was determined not to let Barrick take control of BC’s biggest project, preferring a joint venture with Teck Cominco

Sarah Hurst

For Mining News

Two Vancouver-based companies have announced a partnership to develop British Columbia’s largest mining project, Galore Creek, just across the border from Alaska. NovaGold Resources, which has been developing the copper-gold project for the past four years, will go 50-50 with Teck Cominco, the operator of Red Dog and Pogo mines in Alaska, and Highland Valley and Elk Valley mines in British Columbia.

To earn its 50 percent interest, Teck Cominco will fund approximately US$478 million in construction costs at Galore Creek, with each company responsible for its pro rata share of funding thereafter. Galore Creek is scheduled to begin operations by mid-2012 and to produce 432 million pounds of copper, 341,000 ounces of gold and 4 million ounces of silver annually for the first five years of production. The mine life is expected to be at least 20 years.

NovaGold started drilling at Galore Creek with a dozen employees in 2003 and now has about 150, the company’s president and CEO, Rick Van Nieuwenhuyse, said at a press conference in Vancouver May 23. “Galore Creek is a $2 billion project and will represent one of the largest single mining investments ever made in the province,” he said. “In three years of exploration at Galore Creek we’ve more than tripled the size of the resource and we fully expect to continue that with further exploration. ... Our employees, consultants and our partners have a real passion for this project, and we have consistently gone above and beyond to make this project a reality.”

B.C. permitting process called rigorous but fair

A few years ago, British Columbia had a reputation for being a difficult place to do business and an impossible place to permit a mine, Van Nieuwenhuyse said. These perceptions have turned out to be inaccurate, and the permitting process in the province, although rigorous, is “fair, transparent and timely,” he added. Teck Cominco is very familiar with developing open pit mines using modern technology and has shown an outstanding commitment to local communities and environmental standards, according to Van Nieuwenhuyse.

“It is indeed a milestone day for the B.C. mining industry, and in fact for Canada’s mining industry,” said Teck Cominco’s president and CEO, Don Lindsay. “We’ve been able to look at opportunities all over the world to invest, and there are a number of them that have been shown to us over the past six months to a year, so I think it’s a very strong statement that we are concluding that notwithstanding all the different opportunities where we could go, that right here in British Columbia is one of the very best opportunities that we could find, and not only that, but one of the very best partners that we could find in NovaGold.”

Participation agreement with Tahltan Nation

NovaGold has a participation agreement with the Tahltan Nation for Galore Creek, and Teck Cominco also intends to work closely with the Tahltan, the companies stressed. “We feel that this participation agreement sets a new bar for aboriginal rights and title issues for a number of reasons,” said Curtis Rattray, chairman of the Tahltan Central Council. “We also feel that it sets a new bar for corporate social, economic and environmental responsibility and we welcome Teck Cominco to this relationship and partnership,” he added.

“It’s never easy to say we’re going to try and build relationships, and we’re going to try and reconcile our mutual interests. ... Tahltan people will certainly benefit from this partnership, but all British Columbians and other First Nations will also benefit from the example you’ve set,” said British Columbia’s premier, Gordon Campbell. “I hope every one of these partners will come away saying this was a great relationship, these were the right decisions that we made, yes, we had some difficult times, but when we made those decisions, they were done on behalf of all of us.”

Galore Creek saw heavy snow this past winter, but construction of the mine’s access road should begin soon, Van Nieuwenhuyse said later the same day in a conference call with investors. NovaGold has established an office in Smithers and is currently focusing on camp construction and mobilizing equipment for the project, he added. The State of Alaska has been involved in the permitting process from the beginning and will continue to be involved, Van Nieuwenhuyse said.

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