Sudbury

DeBeers still awaits Attawapiskat approval to shift resources to Tango

With the life of its Victor Mine coming to its end, DeBeers has asked for community approval to shift its attention — and resources — to a neighbouring deposit called Tango.

‘Formal business decision’ expected by end of summer, says company

The DeBeers sign stands outside the Victor Mine, north of Attawapiskat, Ont. The mine will be exhausted by the end of 2018, the company said. (Rita Celli/CBC)

With the life of its Victor Mine coming to its end, DeBeers is still waiting for community approval to shift its attention —  and resources — to a neighbouring deposit called Tango.

DeBeers said Victor will be exhausted by the end of 2018, but Tom Ormsby, the company's head of corporate affairs, said they haven't yet received formal approval from Attawapiskat.

Although the company doesn't legally need permission to explore, the mining giant has recently taken a diplomatic approach to community relations.

In 2016 DeBeers faced community backlash from its attempts to explore the Tango extension.

But Ormsby said there's plenty of preparation to do in the meantime, and there's still potential in the low-grade, stockpiled ore on the surface. 

"The team has got a task in front of them in the coming months, they have to come up with a business plan," Ormsby said.

"Can they identify the cost structure, the personnel required, all the other things we would need to process those low grade stockpiles in an economic way, to continue to be active here at the site at the end of 2018?"

"We'll make a formal business decision on that probably by the end of the summer," he said.

Low-grade, stockpiled ore could still be profitable

Ormsby added that pursuing the stockpiled ore could generate economic opportunities for the next two to three years at the Victor site, while the Tango deposit could still be pursued in the future, if DeBeers gets the community's approval.

Ormsby said Debeers continues to talk to the community and they haven't said 'no'.

From what he understands, Attawapiskat changed leadership last fall and they have been settling into their roles and dealing with other issues.

He said the company would like to take advantage of the full team and full resources present on site right now, but if the community is not ready, they will be respectful.

​Ormsby added that DeBeers may also bring in specialized equipment to mine the final 40 meters at the bottom of the Victor pit. There is still high grade material there, but the pit is too narrow for conventional mining equipment.

This additional project could add two to four more months of mining at the Victor site as well.

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