Clean Air Metals expresses confidence that future Thunder Bay North mine may have similar potential to Norilsk
Proponents of a potentially significant platinum and palladium mine near Thunder Bay believe they have only scratched the surface of its vast metallic potential.
This week, Clean Air Metals released a Preliminary Economic Assessment (PEA) of its Thunder Bay North project, forecasting a mine life of 10 years. But company officials insist this is only the “minimum” because their property has the resources in the ground to last much longer.
“What’s great about this project is that it has huge exploration potential,” company CEO Abraham Drost said, laying out the initial baseline scenario for an underground mine at 40. kilometers north of the city.
“We got into … a high grade underground mine, and that’s what we’ve been able to deliver here,” he said.
Drost and Jim Gallagher, the company’s executive chairman, provided an update on the project in a December 2 web call to investors, a day after they released the PEA for their predominantly metals-nickel-copper project. of the platinum group.
With a little gold, silver, cobalt and rhodium added to the mix, the company brings its “green energy metal suite” to market; all the key ingredients necessary for the “zero emission energy revolution”.
The company has two rich deposits to exploit. The Current deposit, on the east side of the 29,725 hectare property, is the more advanced of the two. The Escape deposit, two and a half kilometers to the west, continues to be drilled significantly this fall and winter.
But Drost said there were enough upfront resources favorable to Current to begin formulating a mining plan.
The investment costs of the mining project over a decade period are $ 536 million, of which $ 367 million is initial construction costs.
A PEA is just a first glimpse of what a mine might look like. A more detailed study, in the form of a pre-feasibility study, will be released in the third quarter of 2022. It will provide a better understanding of what a mine will look like.
By then, the company will have an updated resource estimate, based on more than 70,000 meters of drilling, and may have a deep pocket joint venture partner on board to help bring the project into production. .
“Pretty good odds on even the chance of this developing,” Drost said.
Clean Air has yet to make a decision on whether to build a mine, but if they do, Drost said they could be in production within six months.
There are two high grade zones within 50 to 60 meters of the surface, the highest grades on the property. Six months after the development of the ramp, “and you’re in it,” Drost said.
Production from a high-grade zone at the Escape deposit would be commissioned by year four.
The construction of a processing plant and all related mine infrastructure would take 24 months, which means that the first production of ore would have to be temporarily processed by another mining company.
Drost hopes Thunder Bay North can increase its resources across Norilsk, Russia – one of the most prolific mining camps in the world since 1920 – and its Talnakh field. He said most of the features of the geological structure between Thunder Bay North and Norilsk appear to match.
The company said so last March after the discovery of massive sulphides on the property.
Following Norilsk’s model, the company believes there are first-order massive sulphide deposits somewhere on the property. They plan 16,000 meters of drilling in January to track some potential targets.
In mining planning, the company stressed that it is making a concerted effort to minimize its environmental impact on the ground.
Gallagher noted that former holders of the Current deposit, Australia’s Panoramic Resources, had previously envisioned a large surface mine with a 90 million tonne waste pile. This would have involved draining most of a lake.
By taking the underground approach, Clean Air wants to design the mine so that its operational footprint is reduced, with separate gates and descent ramps built for Current and Escape.
The waste rock will be stored as dry stacked tailings, thus eliminating the possibility of a breach in the tailings dam. Future studies will examine the use of underground electrical equipment.
Drost said they were in talks with a major forestry feller about co-financing the planting of trees on harvested areas on the property to reduce their carbon footprint. They are also teaming up with researchers at Lakehead University to determine whether their ultramafic rock tailings can sequester carbon dioxide.
The company said it is still refining its metallurgical processes and metal recoveries. They also spoke with five foundries, both at home and abroad, about operating agreements.
Since the formation of Clear Air Metals in the spring of 2020, the results of the activity on the ground have been swift and furious.
Drost and Gallagher inherited an abundance of drilling and geological work from Rio and Panoramic, which spent $ 85 million combined to drill the two deposits. Clean Air has since added 50,000 meters of its own borehole.
The company said it maintains strong relationships with three First Nations in the region through a Memorandum of Understanding with the aim of building the capacity of these communities to provide the operation with goods, services and workers.