It took nearly five years, but the Bureau of Land Management has issued a positive record of decision (ROD) on the final environmental impact statement (EIS) allowing Barrick Gold (TSX: ABX; NYSE: ABX) to restart and expand a past-producing open-pit mine, 10 km northwest of its Goldstrike mine in Nevada.
Barrick submitted its plan of operations for the project in June 2009.
The Dee gold mine, 74 km northwest of Elko, was put on care and maintenance in 2000 due to weak gold prices.
Barrick is the operator and owns 60% of the project — now known as the “Arturo” mine — and its partner Goldcorp (TSX: G; NYSE: GG) owns the remainder.
With the May 8 ROD, the joint-venture partners can expand the open-pit mine’s operational footprint, which includes exploration activities, rock disposal areas, heap-leach operations, administrative facilities and other open-pit mine related disturbances.
The reclamation permit authorizes 2,703 acres (10.9 sq. km) of surface disturbance on public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and 71 acres (0.29 sq. km) on private lands. The federal agency’s job is to administer 264 million acres of public lands in the U.S., mostly in the country’s 12 western states.
The joint-venture partners need a water-pollution control permit before they can mine at Arturo.
Louis Schack, Barrick’s director of communications based in Salt Lake City, told The Northern Miner that it is typical to pursue final state permits after the BLM signs off on an EIS.
Schack said construction at Arturo should take eight months before mining can resume, but noted that the timing depends on the markets.
“Market conditions, project sequencing and our disciplined approach to capital allocation may also affect the timing of mining at Arturo,” he said.
Construction will involve upgrades to roads near and on the site; waste-rock disposal facilities, as pit expansion and stripping get underway; power line and substation installation; and various buildings.
As for further exploration, Schack said he expects it will continue “depending on economic conditions.”
Arturo has proven and probable reserves of 31 million tonnes, or 34.2 million tons grading 0.049 oz. per ton, for 1.68 million contained oz. gold.
Measured and indicated resources stand at 49 million tonnes, or 54.4 million tons grading 0.044 oz. per ton, for 2.40 million contained oz. gold.
Mill-grade ore would be transported via the Bootstrap haul road and processed by contract at Barrick’s Goldstrike operation. Low-grade leachable ore would be processed on-site at the proposed heap-leach pad and associated processing facilities.
According to the EIS, mine operations would continue for eight years — depending on mining and economic conditions — and ore processing would last another two years beyond the end of mining operations.
The former Dee gold mine started open-pit production in 1983. Underground production using a decline from the bottom of the open pit began in 1999.
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