li-nicomine

Fortune Minerals is developing a mine about 160 kilometres north of Yellowknife. (fortuneminerals.com)

 A critical part of the review of the NICO project in the Northwest Territories won't  be part of the public hearings on the project this week.

Fortune Minerals wants to build the gold, cobalt, copper and bismuth mine on Tlicho lands about 160 kilometres northwest of Yellowknife, 50 kilometers from Whati.

The Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board is holding hearings in Wha Ti, Yellowknife and Behchoko. But Grand Chief Eddie Erasmus said a key study won't be done in time.

"We were hoping our traditional knowledge would be on an equal footing with modern science, but it's unfortunate that's not coming out until September," Erasmus said.

The hearings begin Monday in Wha Ti. On Wednesday they move to Yellowknife. People in Behchoko will get a chance to have their say on the project on Thursday and Friday.

According to Fortune Minerals, the project holds a host of benefits for the Tlicho. The mine would create hundreds of jobs, as well as business opportunities, for 19 years or more.

Erasmus said his people are more interested in its environmental impacts.

"It's actually in the heart of Tlicho lands, so that's a great concern. It's a main transportation route to get to all of the Tlicho communities," he said.  "That's where we do our hunting, trapping and fishing, that's where we get our  water from."

The hearings are also proceeding without plans for an all-weather road to Wha Ti, something Fortune needs to truck its metals out.