Proposed mining project in Newfoundland is going for gold
Company already doing road work, exploration drilling for proposed gold project
All that glitters is not gold, but people in southwestern Newfoundland are hoping a future gold mine could be right on their doorstep.
However, they still have plenty of questions about the plan by Matador Mining and about the impact it would have on the environment and traditional activities, such as hunting and fishing.
Matador has asked government for approval to develop a mine, mill and processing operation for gold ore in the area of Isle aux Morts.
As part of the province's environmental assessment process, the company held two public consultations last week.
Port aux Basques Mayor John Spencer said the impact on wildlife topped the list of questions from the nearly 70 people in attendance.
"'How would this impact the moose and caribou that frequent the area?' 'How would this impact the migratory birds?' 'What about the salmon?'" said Spencer.
"'What are the possibilities of a repeat of what happened in a mining operation many years ago down in Hope Brook where there was a spill?' So they do have some concerns."
Exchange of information
Keith Bowes, Matador Mining's technical director, led the discussion at the public meetings in Port aux Basques and Isle aux Morts.
"Our main focus at the moment is really a drilling program where we're out in the field, trying to determine how much gold is in the ground," he said.
Bowes said the public consultations were a chance for the company to explain its plan and also to address the issues raised by area residents.
"So it was a real good opportunity for me to talk to the local community about what we're doing, [we] had some really good questions and really good feedback from the locals ...with some concerns, as you can imagine, developing a project, but I don't think it was anything too serious that we were concerned about or that were raised."
Spencer agreed that people at the meeting he attended seemed receptive and positive.
"There were answers to questions and, when there weren't answers, there was a possibility of getting back [with answers], but most of the questions were answered in a very informative way," said Spencer.
Digging in to build up
Bowes said the company is in the exploration phase of work on what it calls the Cape Ray Gold Project, which has its base camp about 35 kilometres from Port aux Basques.
Matador has already upgraded a road to the area, and Bowes said the company has 13 people working on site, including field staff and geologists.
Bowes said the company hires locally wherever possible, including contracts with Newfoundland Helicopters, Eastern Analytical (for laboratory analysis of ore samples), and a Deer Lake company (for help with site access), as well as a drilling contractor from Nova Scotia.
Any new money in our economy is great.- John Spencer
The gold project had previously been submitted to the provincial government in 2016 by another company, Nordmin Resource and Industrial Engineering.
After Matador took over the project in July 2018, Bowes said the company spent about $1.3 million last year, and he anticipates the company will spend almost $3 million in 2019.
The mayor of Port aux Basques said it's welcome news for the area.
"They've been ramping things up here for a while now, and they've been spending money locally, and that's good for local businesses," said Spencer.
"Any new money in our economy is great."
Gold on hold
But even though money is being spent and people in the local area are optimistic about potential employment, there is nothing definite yet.
Matador has yet to determine if there is sufficient gold ore to develop the project, and the plan needs government approval.
Bowes said the plan would be to establish an open pit mining operation, with a mill on site to produce gold ore.
He estimated the construction phase of the project could require 200 workers, with another 160 positions available in an operating mine.
The provincial Department of Municipal Affairs and Environment said Matador has until Aug. 24, 2020, to submit an acceptable environmental impact statement.
Last week's public information sessions are required as part of the environmental assessment process, and more sessions are planned for next month.