The Yukon's environmental screening agency has tentatively approved North American Tungsten's Mactung mine proposal, but has added some stiff conditions.
The proposed mine is about 160 kilometres northwest of the company’s existing Cantung mine in eastern Yukon. The company says it's one of the biggest high-grade tungsten deposits in the world.
"It's a milestone; we've still got a ways to go. It's not easy financing mines, it's not easy building mines, and it's certainly not easy running mines. And then alongside you need to take care in how we would be a new neighbour to a lot of people and certainly we fully intend on making sure they're part of the process," said Stephen Leahy, the president of North American Tungsten Corporation Ltd.
Leahy said the tentative approval means the company can move ahead getting the final permits it needs.
The Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board has put some stiff conditions on its approval.
The board's draft screening report says there are two major problems with the mine proposal: the company’s plan to treat the waste rock is untested in Yukon, and the company wants to build a new access road through pristine wilderness on the Yukon side of the border instead of upgrading an existing road on the N.W.T. side.
"So we've asked the proponent to make sure they engage the Northwest Territories because presently we see no reason why that access road can't be upgraded," said Ken McKinnon, a board member for the YESA.
North American Tungsten Corporation Ltd.’s president, Stephen Leahy, says the company needs to do some research before deciding how to proceed.
"We really need to understand a little bit more the ultimate procedures and how the N.W.T. would view it versus the Yukon territorial government, and certainly make our decision accordingly," he said.
However, Leahy said overall, he's pleased the board has tentatively approved the project.
McKinnon said the recommendations are a draft for now and could be changed in the board's final report.