North·In Depth

Doris North gold mine just the beginning for TMAC in Nunavut

TMAC, the company behind the Doris North gold mine in the Kitikmeot, has big plans to expand its operations in Hope Bay, with two additional sites by 2022.

Company hopes to expand Hope Bay operations with 2 additional sites by 2022

The project which received the green light from the Nunavut Impact Review Board could become Nunavut’s second operating gold mine by next year. (TMAC)

TMAC Resources Inc., the company behind the Doris North gold mine in the Kitikmeot, has big plans to expand operations in Hope Bay, with two additional sites by 2022.

​The Nunavut Impact Review Board gave the thumbs up Monday to a new and improved Doris North mine, approving several upgrades from the original project certificate issued to Miramar Mining Corp. in 2006. It's now up to the minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs to finalize the approval — usually a formality — before the project goes to the licensing stage. 

Catharine Farrow, TMAC's chief executive officer, says Doris North could become Nunavut's second operating gold mine as early as next year.

"It's fantastic that we've gotten the positive recommendation from the board," she said. "It's a very good process in Nunavut."

TMAC acquired the site in 2013 and started mining ore in the area at the end of last year, Farrow said.

"Things have gone very, very well," she said. "We're on schedule and on budget to deliver the project."

TMAC is predicting hundreds of jobs during the construction and operations phase of the project. (TMAC)
With the Doris North mine — a six-year project — almost underway, the company is now setting its sights on additional projects along the greenstone belt, a large geological area which has a number of similar deposits.

It's now working on a proposal for advanced exploration and bulk sampling at the Madrid deposit, and in the process of completing draft environmental impact statements for production at both the Madrid and Boston deposits.

"The goal has been at Hope Bay to begin with Doris, and ultimately develop Madrid and bring it into production by 2020. And later on in 2022 to bring Boston into production," said Farrow.

Farrow said there are currently about 3.5 million ounces of gold reserves in all three deposits combined. 

"That assumed we're not going to explore anything else, which we will do, and obviously have continued since we established those reserves," said Farrow.

The addition of the two other sites would increase the timeline of TMAC's work from six years to 20 years, she said.

"That was the basis for which we have presented the development of the Hope Bay belt to potential investors and Inuit land owners."

$1 million annual payment to KIA

The Doris North project could also mean significant economic gains for Inuit in the region, through the Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement between TMAC and the Kitikmeot Inuit Association (KIA).

Farrow says KIA will receive an annual payment of $1 million, once the mine's in production. The agreement also promises training and jobs for Inuit. 

With the Doris North mine project almost underway, the company is now setting its sights on other nearby deposits. (TMAC)

KIA is also now a 1.4 per cent owner of TMAC, with shares held in trust, Farrow said.

TMAC is predicting up to 352 employees, including contractors and on-site and off-site employees, to be hired annually between 2016 and 2021.

The company anticipates, based on past experience, that about 42 per cent of jobs during the construction phase would go to Inuit.

"Kitikmeot Corporation will continue to strongly focus our attention and participation on TMAC's Hope Bay project," said David Omilgoitok, the company's president, in an email to CBC.

Expansion of Doris North

The expansion of the Doris North Gold mine will include:

  • Another four years of mine life; 
  • Increased mining and milling rates from 720 tonnes/day to 2,000 tonnes/day;
  • Increased volume of deposited tailings from 458,000 tonnes to 2.5 million tonnes;
  • Increased camp capacity from 180 to 280 persons;
  • And a new sewage treatment plant and retrofitting of the existing sewage treatment plant for backup.

'Environmental impacts are not significantly greater'

The Nunavut Impact Review Board concluded that TMAC's plans to expand the Doris North project from its initial conception does not pose significant environmental risks.

The Nunavut Impact Review Board concluded that TMAC’s proposal to expand operations at Doris North does not pose a significant environmental risk. (Nunavut Impact Review Board)
"This assessment is unique because it's a mine that never quite got off the ground," said the board's executive director, Ryan Barry.

"And with these proposed changes, the proponent is hoping to make it into a longer-term, more sustainable mine than the initial two years that it was suppose to operate."

Barry said there is a permanent monitoring program for the life of the mine.

"That means that we have on staff a monitoring officer that is continually reviewing compliance reporting and effects monitoring for the site." 

The board also visits the site at least once each year and consults regularly with other regulators that do periodic site visits, Barry said.

About the Author

Sima Sahar Zerehi is a reporter with CBC North. She started her career in journalism with the ethnic press working for a Canadian-based Farsi language newspaper. Her CBC journey began as a regular commentator with CBC radio's Metro Morning. Since then she's worked with CBC in Montreal, Toronto and now Iqaluit.