By Timothy Schafer, The Nelson Daily
At least 90 jobs and $7 million annually in salaries will be injected into the region if the Jersey Emerald mine south of Salmo gets off the ground, the consultant for the tungsten mining project said Thursday.
Ed Lawrence told the Regional District of Central Kootenay board of directors the Sultan Minerals $70-million project could provide at least 15 years of employment for the local area in three years if it is approved, with other value added features like a cement facility and a plant for processing other mine tailings extending its life.
Although the company is still engaged in obtaining proper permitting and environmental approval for the project, they do “have lots of support around Salmo,” especially with $3.5 million worth of contractor’s wages predicted to be put back into the area each year from the project.
“The company policy in the past has always been to hire local people and to purchase local products, as much as possible,” Lawrence said.
However, there is some skepticism in Salmo, said alternate director for the village, Jannie Haughton.
“There’s something about it that makes me comfortable, I don’t know what that is, but I want to find out,” she said. “I’m worried about the social impact on a small town, I’m worried about the infrastructure impact in a small town where we can’t afford to replace it, and how many hoops do we have to go through to get recompense for all of that.”
Vancouver-based Sultan Minerals will be presenting what their plan is for the project — which has been in the works since 1993 — in the near future to the community so people can see how the project will affect the area, said Lawrence.
The large, potential tungsten deposit is right on the Canada and U.S. border, said Lawrence, but the mine itself will be primarily underground with very small, open cuts, so it is out of sight of the highway and the Village of Salmo.
The big issue with any mine is the environmental aspect and the Jersey Emerald is unique in that its impact is going to be minimal, said Lawrence. There will be little surface disturbance and the tailings — usually a problem (where to store and keep safe) — from the Jersey Emerald site will be sealed in a large, existing, underground mine nearby.
The old mine will be sealed with concrete in neutralizing limestone shafts, and the water derived from the tailings will be re-used back in the mill for processing.
“So the water won’t go into the drainage systems and it eliminates a large environmental problem,” Lawrence said. “And there is plenty of room for tailings in the mine, probably for the life of the project.”
The mine and the plant will be located just above the current Salmo landfill. Mechanized equipment with drills mounted on them, using one third of the energy the old ones use, will be employed. In addition, the tungsten ore will be hauled out of the ground with 60-tonne trucks, using less fuel per tonne than smaller trucks.
Shipping the tungsten concentrate — the final product from the site — will be sent once per week to Vancouver and also to markets in the Eastern U.S. Tungsten is used mainly in steel alloy and in hard surfacing materials.
There are some by products available from the process like molybdenum and a minor amount of gold. The deposit also has a very significant amount of garnet, which Sultan will stockpile and sell when the market improves for the mineral.
The permitting process starts next year, said Lawrence.
One of the largest mine tailings problems in the Commonwealth could be solved by the Jersey Emerald mine.
Kaslo Mayor Greg Lay asked Jersey Emerald consultant Ed Lawrence if the mill at the site south of Salmo would accept tailings from other mine sites for processing and disposal.
The Jersey Emerald mill itself is located on an old tungsten mill site, but now with a much larger capacity of 1,800 tonnes per shift, running seven days per week.
“It depends on the grade of the (ore) and whether it can carry the trucking costs,” said Lawrence. “A person might have a very small deposit of tailings, but it might be a very high grade and they can truck it.”
“And are you going to encourage that (processing of tailings)?” asked Lay.
“Absolutely. It will extend the life of the mine,” Lawrence replied.
The plant can be modified to treat other ores, and that is a big part of the economics of the project, he added.