Nunavut's Hope Bay mine celebrates commercial production with Inuit landowners

Charlie Evalik, former president of the Kitikmeot Inuit Association, stands at the Doris North mine site June 7. 'It's positive. Employment for the communities.'

50 guest expected on site today to celebrate the ramp up of the Doris North mine at Hope Bay

Charlie Evalik, former president of the Kitikmeot Inuit Association, stands at the Doris North mine site June 7. 'It's positive. Employment for the communities, not just Cambridge Bay but for the whole Kitikmeot.' (Submitted by Geoff Clark)

After decades of exploration, numerous owners and the complex logistics of getting a gold mine up and running in the Arctic, Nunavut's Hope Bay mine is finally celebrating its ramp up toward full commercial production.

And they're throwing a party. 

Fifty people, including Inuit landowners and mining executives, plan to fly to the remote site for a ceremony and tour.

"It's about being thankful for what we have been able to do there... [and to] recognize the people who have come before us, especially the Inuit," said Catharine Farrow, TMAC Resources CEO.

TMAC Resources Hope Bay gold mine project is ramping up to full production. (TMAC Resources)

It's been more than a decade since there's been an operating mine in the mineral rich Kitikmeot region.

Hope Bay is about 125 kilometres southwest of Cambridge Bay, encompassing about 1,100 square kilometres.

Newmont Mining acquired the Hope Bay property in 2007, building an air strip, camps and ports.

The project employed roughly 150 Inuit from the Kitikmeot region, but in 2011 the company shut the mine down and put it into care and maintenance mode.

More jobs

"It was a blow for Inuit," recalls former KIA President, Charlie Evalik, from his home in Cambridge Bay. 

In 2013 TMAC Resources acquired the property. Evalik helped negotiate the Inuit Impact benefit agreements for the Hope Bay project.

He's hopeful Inuit employment numbers will rise again once the mine is in full production.

"It's positive. Employment for the communities, not just Cambridge Bay but for the whole Kitikmeot," he said. "I think Kitikmeot communities are open to development as long as it's done right."

Alex Buchan of TMAC Resources is swamped with resumes as the Hope Bay gold mine ramps up toward full production. (Sara Minogue/CBC)

Alex Buchan, TMAC's director of community relations, is swamped with resumes.

"[We've] got a lot of phone calls and e-mails coming it," Buchan said. "People can't get through because both of our lines are busy."

Buchan said several dozen people are being considered for positions.

Of 385 people working at the site in March, 56 or 14 per cent, were Inuit. 

1st gold bar poured in February

The company poured its first gold bar in February and reached commercial production in early May. Once in full operation, the mine will process 1,000 tonnes of ore per day.

Workers at the Hope Bay mine in western Nunavut pour the first gold bar in the late evening of Feb. 9, 2017. (Gord Morrison/TMAC Resources)

The Kitikmeot Inuit Association gets 1 per cent royalty payments from all gold sold. It also owns 1.4 per cent of TMAC Resources.

The first payment — $70,000 — arrived in April said Clark. Once the mine is in full production, that amount is expected to grow significantly. The company expects two other properties — the Madrid and Boston properties— to start production in 2020 and 2022, respectively.

"The project has been in the construction phase" with many highly technical and specialized workers on site said Geoffrey Clark, KIA's director of lands, environment and resources.

"We anticipate that once the project moves to stable production and operations there will be more long term, steady employment available."

The Hope Bay project has proven and probable mineral reserves of approximately 3.5 million ounces of gold.


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