Cheerleaders and critics alike wait patiently for regulators to make a call on proposed open pit mine
Northcliff Resources Ltd.’s plan to build a tungsten-molybdenum mine in New Brunswick has been working its way through the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency’s environmental assessment phase since July 2013. It may be getting closer to concluding that process.
In April, the Vancouver-based junior miner announced that CEAA had issued a comprehensive study report on the Sisson project and a 30-day public comment period on it had begun. The comment period wrapped up on May 15. The decision is now in the hands of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna. “The Minister of Environment and Climate Change will take into consideration the Comprehensive Study Report, along with public comments received on the report, in issuing her Environmental Assessment Decision Statement,” CEAA spokesperson Lucille Jamault wrote in an email response.
If CEAA approves the project, it will still have to get regulatory approvals from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Department of Natural Resources before it can build the mine. But a major regulatory hurdle would be cleared. The Sisson project is a big deal for Northcliff and New Brunswick. It’s the only asset in Northcliff’s portfolio, so developing it is paramount for the company’s future. As for the province, the mine would be a big job creator, employing 300 people annually.
Sisson would be a large operation. The open pit mine would have an expected life of 27 years and produce 30,000 tonnes of ore per day. Northcliff is estimating it will take two years to build the mine at a cost of $579 million. A 2013 feasibility study on the Sisson project says it’s one of the most significant tungsten reserves outside of China, which produces about 85 per cent of the world’s tungsten.
The project has its critics, who are concerned the mine will negatively impact water and air quality in the area. But Sisson also has plenty of supporters in the Nashwaak watershed region where the mine would be located, 100 kilometres northwest of Fredericton. Jobs are scarce in this part of the province and the Sisson mine would provide 300 high paying positions and plenty of employment opportunities for businesses that supply the mine. But until CEAA issues a decision, the mine is nothing more than a concept.