Provincial hydro project gets nod at mining investors’ forum

Ashley Fitzpatrick
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On the first day of Mining Industry NL’s fall Resource Investors Forum, at least three companies with three different mining projects mentioned the province’s multibillion-dollar Lower Churchill hydroelectric development.

The two-day forum, now in its 10th year, got underway at the Sheraton Hotel in St. John's Monday. The annual event offers mining companies active in the province a chance to present their work to potential investors.

Among the 230 people registered in 2013 are representatives for North Atlantic Iron Corp. (NAIC), Marathon Gold and Alderon Iron Ore, who offered presentations as part of the first day’s schedule.

“What I’ve learned in this business of mining, it’s actually really about logistics,” said Frank MacKenzie, president of NAIC.

At the podium, he walked through the basics of the company’s ironsands development, wherein NAIC is seeking to produce high-priced pig iron out of the sands around Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

The primary separation work of valuable material from the sand will be energy-intensive, he said, but the project area would be just a stone’s throw away from the dam under construction at Muskrat Falls.

“They very conveniently located a hydro structure right in the middle of our project,” he said with a smile.

NAIC has spent about $17 million to date on its ironsands development, he said, explaining it recently had been seeking ways to bring down the expected cost of production as the project moves to a finalized preliminary economic assessment, a key step in any mine development.

That evaluation is “forthcoming.”

The cost of power is an important factor in any mining project  — something also mentioned by Marathon Gold’s Sherry Duns-worth, vice-president of exploration.

Marathon has been hit by the same economic restraints troubling other junior miners over the last year, but continues to move its Valentine Lake gold project, about 57 kilometres south of Buchans, to a preliminary economic assessment.

“Newfoundland is where we’re focusing our interest right now,” Dunsworth said in her rundown of Marathon’s recent work.

Looking ahead to a potential development, she noted Marathon has the benefit of the existing Star Lake hydro dam about 25 kilometres west of the project site.

She said the transmission lines being developed as part of the Lower Churchill project are also creating “new corridors” for power on the island.

Alderon Iron Ore, meanwhile, announced in January it would be looking to Nalcor Energy to supply the Kami iron ore project.

That project will be using generators in its early development — if released from environmental assessment — but Alderon is in discussions on the power for full production.

In response to questions, a representative for Nalcor Energy stated the Crown corporation is talking to several mining companies about their future energy requirements.

“These discussions have included Alderon, New Millenium, and NAIC. The status of these discussions for supply of power varies depending on the progression of the individual mining projects.

“Discussions to date have not yet resulted in a firm purchase contract.”

Organizations: North Atlantic Iron, Sheraton Hotel, Nalcor Energy Iron Ore New Millenium

Geographic location: St. John's, Alderon Iron Ore, Goose Bay Valentine Lake Buchans Newfoundland Star Lake

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