Darnley Bay Resources Ltd. has started hiring local workers as it tries to revive the old Pine Point Mine east of Hay River, Northwest Territories.

The company, with headquarters in Toronto, purchased the project for $8 million in cash and shares last December.

Around the same time, it began consulting with Indigenous groups in the area, including the K'atl'odeeche First Nation near Hay River, the Deninu Kue First Nation near Fort Resolution and Metis groups in both communities.

Darnley Bay has also been in talks with the Town of Hay River.

John KEY darnley bay resources

John Key, chief operating officer of Darnley Bay Resources Ltd. Darnley Bay has hired for an exploratory drilling program this summer near the former Pine Point mine. (Submitted by John Key)

"That was our first focus," said John Key, the company's chief operating officer. "To get out and talk to the local people in terms of engagement."

The company hired approximately 20 people from Hay River and Fort Resolution to help with exploratory drilling and line cutting at the site.

Early results from those drills have been very promising, says Darnley Bay CEO Jamie Levy.

'Looks like it will make money'

The initial drill results come on the heels of a preliminary economic assessment released earlier this year.

In that report, the company said the proposed zinc-lead mine is viable and that it "looks like it will make money."

Key says the project is still very much in the "information-gathering" stage, but that will change in the coming months.

"It is limited in what we can do at this point in time but as we round the corner and start to be able to do things on the property, things will change," he said.

Key says drilling and line cutting programs are likely to expand. When that happens, Key says it will prioritize local and Indigenous applicants.

"All of the entities we've been talking to are looking to acquire the benefits from this project," said Key. "They're looking for jobs, they're looking for training.

"They repeatedly say that they want this project and they want this project to come online but they don't want to be left out and we fully understand that."

"We've been having good face-to-face meetings [and] negotiations with the people."

PINE POINT map

A map of the former Pine Point mine east of Hay River, N.W.T. Darnley Bay Resources Ltd. is conducting and exploratory drilling program in the area this summer. (Submitted by Darnley Bay Resources Ltd.)

The Pine Point project was an operating mine up until the late 1980s.

In the 2000s, Tamerlane Ventures Inc. attempted to restart mining on the property, but ended up falling into debt and lost the claim in bankruptcy.

Key says Darnley Bay will have to complete enough drilling before it can finalize a mine plan and begin the permitting process.

If constructed, the mine will employ approximately 320 full-time workers.