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Northern B.C. gold mine restart gets green light

Mine near Stewart expected to pour first gold in early 2023
Premier gold mine near Stewart takes shape.

The Premier gold mine in Northwest B.C. has been given the green light for a restart, and the company behind its reopening, Ascot Resources Ltd., is aiming to have it in production by the first quarter of 2023.

Ascot today announced it has received a Mines Act permit for the underground gold mine, which is about 25 kilometres from the town of Stewart.

An historic mine, the Premier gold mine started more than 100 years ago, in 1918, and iterations of it have been in operation off and on up until 20 years ago. A second mine, the Big Missouri, located four kilometres from the original one, opened in 1938, and was in operation up until 2001.

Now that it has a mine permit, Ascot plans to transition from “early works” to full-scale construction.

“Receiving the Mines Act Permit for PGP is a momentous milestone for Ascot, and the culmination of extensive collaboration and consultation with Nisga’a Nation and the provincial regulators,” Ascot CEO Derek White said in a news release.

“This project will be a welcome source of employment for hundreds of people who live in the Northwest,” said Bruce Ralston, minister of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation. “Ascot Resources Ltd. is working with Nisga’a Nation to bring good-paying jobs to the community and those who live around Stewart, B.C.”

Construction work is expected to employ 140. Once in operation, it would employ 280 people, not counting contractors.

The work was expected to start soon, but Ascot says it has had to push back its construction schedule, due to weather and the recent loss of clarifier and thickener components. Those components were lost at sea when a container ship from China lost its cargo in heavy seas off the coast of B.C.

"The financial cost of replacement will be covered by insurance, but the additional time to fabricate and ship replacement components is expected to cause a delay in the overall project schedule," the company says.

Abnormally high snow levels have also led Ascot to push back most outdoor construction work. The company plans to begin underground mining in April, with first ore expected to be produced by October 2022.

Ascot plans to spend $353 million in capital over the mine’s eight-year operating life. Ascot plans to pour doré gold-silver bars on site.