New Brunswick

Sisson mine takes on public concerns in open house meetings

The company behind the proposed Sisson Brook mine north of Fredericton is trying to win more public support.

Company hopes to gain support for mine in Stanley area through environmental impact assessment

The company behind the proposed Sisson Brook mine north of Fredericton is trying to win more public support.

The Sisson Partnership hosted open houses this week in Nackawic and Woodstock as part of the environmental assessment process for a planned open-pit tungsten and molybdenum operation in the Stanley area.

Mike Clark is the director of public affairs for the company behind the proposed Sisson mine. (CBC)
Myke Clark, the company's vice president of public affairs, says the response so far has been overwhelmingly positive, but admits it hasn't been unanimous.

"Concerns are definitely raised and that's what we're there for. There's also a lot of interest in jobs and potential job opportunities, so we provide information on that. We're really there to determine what people want in terms of information and provide that information."

Some people are concerned about a tailings pond breach, such as the Mount Polley spill that happened in British Columbia last summer.

Clark is confident a breach wouldn't happen at the proposed Sisson mine.

"One of the benefits of the Sisson project — the tailing storage facility — is that after extensive investigation and geotechnical drilling we've determined that there is none of that glacial till. So the foundation that we're building this on and the rock that we're building it with is extremely stable.

"It will be built to Canadian Dam Association guidelines. There will be conservative design criteria put in place to ensure there is not a catastrophic failure like happened at Mount Polley," he said.

"I mean, can we guarantee it? There are no guarantees in life, for sure. But we can ensure, with the proper regulatory oversight and ongoing monitoring, that something like happened at Mount Polley will not happen at the Sisson project."

Tungsten is in incandescent light bulb filaments and as a hardening agent for armour.

Some analysts have suggested the project is not viable at its current market price. But that could change if there was a "geopolitical disruption."

Clark says the project is viable now.

He says purchasers are looking for long-term supply agreements outside of China.

Clark says there's "a positive appetite" as the junior company seeks $579-million in financing.

He says Todd Minerals out of New Zealand has come in for "a large chunk of the project."

A French company is lined up to raise money by selling bonds, bills, or notes to individual and/or institutional investors, according to Clark.

"We have a group called Société Générale that's on board which is an international financing group that are going to be arranging the financing for us at least the debt side of the financing for us. And so it all has to happen simultaneous right? So we have right now permitting that's taking place — the environmental impact assessment. We need approval on that. We need permitting approval to occur before people are going to put that kind of money on the table."

A provincial public meeting is scheduled for June 22 in Stanley.

The public comment period for the Environmental Impact Assessment ends July 17.

Clark says after that point a report of all the public comments will be sent to cabinet.

The Sisson Partnership hopes a decision will be made by the end of the year and to be in operation by the middle of 2016.

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