Proposed gold mine would bring hundreds of jobs

A proposed underground mine in the far reaches of the Peace River Regional District could bring hundreds of jobs to northern B.C.

Centerra Gold updated the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George board about the Kemess Underground project on Feb. 20. The Canadian mining company acquired the Kemess mines in the Omenica mountains from AuRico Metals in 2018, and currently operates the Mount Milligan copper/gold mine west of Mackenzie and owns the shuttered Endako molybdenum mine west of Fraser Lake.

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The proposed Kemess Underground copper and gold mine would be located six kilometres from the now-closed Kemess South open pit mine, Miller said. Between 1998 and 2011 when it closed, the Kemess South mine produced three million ounces of gold and 750 million pounds of copper.

The new Kemess Underground mine would use much of the same infrastructure as the former open pit mine, Miller said, reducing the cost and footprint of the mine.

"This (Kemess Underground) is a fly-in, fly-out operation. Kemess Underground will fly in and out of Prince George. We previously flew out of Smithers," said Joanna Miller, Centerra's sustainability and community development manager.

During the four to five year construction period, the mine would employ approximately 575 people, she said. Once complete, the mine would employee approximately 475 people full-time on a two weeks in, two weeks out rotation for the 11-year life of the mine.

The proposed design is for a block cave mine, she said, which means tunnels will be dug 200 metres to 500 metres beneath the surface and the mine will then dig up into the gold and copper deposit from underneath.

"It's a bit of an interesting way to mine. There is no impact on the surface," she said. "All that will be visible on the surface is a slight depression."

Once operational, the mine will process 25 to 35 tons of ore per day, Miller said.

The proposed mine has now received all regulatory approvals and is just waiting on the Centerra Gold board of directors to approve starting construction, she added.

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