By RYAN KING
SOUTHWEST COAST – Matador Mining Ltd. recently held public information sessions outlining its ongoing work on the Cape Ray Gold Project. The two sessions were held in Isle aux Morts on Nov. 3, and in Port aux Basques on Nov. 4. Limited seating was available, but there remained plenty of seats at the Port aux Basques session. Less than a dozen residents were in attendance, which was a much lower turn out than at the Isle aux Morts meeting.
“The project itself is along the Cape right here,” said Ian Murray, Matador Mining’s Executive Chairman. “One hundred and twenty straight kilometres, pretty much from the coast, all the way up the Cape Ray Shear. Within that, we’ve got 837,000 ounces of gold already discovered on that belt, and those are those four areas, within 15 kilometres. The biggest one is central, which was discovered in the 1980s. That’s half a million ounces of gold, then at Window Glass Hill, a quarter of a million ounces of gold. And those are the two that make up the mining project that we’re going to talk about today.”
Murray explained that the project itself will be a series of five open pit mines across the central area and Window Glass Hill, not an underground mine. The material will be dug up and transported to the processing plant, with operations running 365 days a year.
“When you dig up the material that contains the gold, the ore, you also have to dig up rock that doesn’t contain gold. That rock will go into rock dumps,” explained Murray.
This low-grade material will be put in a separate area and will be processed later in the project life. The process plant itself will be standard gold process technology.
“Simply put, it’s crush, grind and then cyanide leaching.”
The plan is for 100,000 ounces of gold production per year, with roughly 3,600 tons per day of material going through the process plant.
“At this stage the project life is seven years, but with the ongoing exploration of our team, and I’m sure you’re familiar that we’ve got a very active exploration program going on,” said Murray, “The aim is to have in excess of 10-year mine life.”
When the gold is removed from the rock paste, the material is then put on a tailings dam on the project area.
“We have a water treatment plant, so all water that goes onto that mining project area, it will be captured by us, will be treated by us, before it goes back into the river system,” explained Murray.
The company will be constructing a mill, processing facilities, and will upgrade the access road so that trucks can access the site. They will also be constructing administration buildings and a camp for accommodations. The company is also completing an environmental impact statement (EIS).
“When you build a big project like this, you’re required by the federal agency and the provincial agency to carry out what’s called an environmental assessment. So we look at all aspects of the environment to make sure that our project is not going to harm those aspects of the environment,” said John Sferrazza, the project’s Environmental Applications Manager.
Matador has met with stakeholders, such as local communities and First Nations. Community engagement is something that Matador will continue to focus on.
“We know a lot about the environment in which the project is sitting, but we need to do more engagement. That’s what we’re doing tonight. So there needs to be more continued engagement,” said Sferrazza, “So that we can listen to your issues. If you do have issues about the project, the scope of the project, we need to hear that.”
Because of the pandemic, efforts to engage the public have been rather challenging.
“I think the last time we had a public meeting in Isle aux Morts was in September of 2019, I believe, and then COVID kind of put us a little behind in that respect, we weren’t able to have face to face meetings. We tried to do virtual meetings, but it didn’t work out that well, so we’re trying to do more of these community meetings now,” said Sferrazza.
He also noted that in Sept. 2019 there was a meeting in Port aux Basques, and in August 2020 they met with the ATV club of Isle aux Morts and local outfitters.
“We’re always talking to the local outfitters that are operating near the project site, and we had a meeting just recently with the cabin owners at the Senior Center here in Isle aux Morts. So, we’re constantly doing these stakeholder engagement sessions like we’re doing tonight just to get feedback.”
The company has completed its baseline studies and are entering into traditional land use studies with two Mi’kmaq communities on the island, the Qalipu in Corner Brook, and the Miawpukek in Conne River. A date for the EIS submission to government is tentative for August 2022.
“Once we submit that document, the government reviews it. If it’s deemed to be sufficient, they authorize the project, and then we go to construction, we go to permitting for construction,” said Sferrazza.
The company has completed its environmental baseline studies on the project site itself, and around the Isle aux Morts watershed. This includes three years of fish and fish habitat studies on the Isle aux Morts river and connecting water bodies, large mammal surveys, including caribou and moose, and small mammal surveys, including migratory marsh birds and ptarmigan.
Additionally, archaeological resources and ecological land classifications were assessed. Socioeconomic studies, including a human health risk assessment were done, and Matador just completed a country food survey, which looked at berries and other wild foods. The company is also completing a site wide water management plan so that any snow melt or rainfall will be managed and directed into a containment pond.
There were three seasons of surface water and two seasons of groundwater monitoring, and atmospheric studies were done to get baseline conditions of air quality, noise, and light.
“Geochemistry, we’re looking at the chemical composition of the rock,” said Sferrazza. “That’s going to be brought to surface. Sometimes that can be acid generating, so we need to know if there’s any acid generating components in that waste rock.”
He said that they have learned much from the Marathon Valentine Gold project and its submission of their EIS to federal and provincial agencies.
“We have the benefit of their project, is very similar to ours. It’s bigger in scope, but it’s similar in that it’s a pit. The milling process is the same, so we had the benefit of going through those IR’s (information requirements) and looking at where we might be weak in terms of our baseline studies, and when we did that, we did find that we needed to do more work,” said Sferrazza.
The presentation ended with a video from Keith Bowes, Project Manager who addressed common questions about the project.
Bowes noted that they recognize that cyanide, which is used in most gold mines in the world, is toxic, but they have strategies and mechanisms in place to keep things safe. This includes having, in the process, a cyanide destruction circuit.
“So it gets converted into effectively a carbon and a nitrogen mineral, which is no longer dangerous to anyone,” explained Bowes.
The material is then pumped across to the tailings dam, and the water is recycled back into the plant, creating a closed-circuit.
“By undertaking those steps, we believe we will be able to handle any cyanide issues that will potentially come there,” said Bowes. “We also recognize that as we do the mining and we’re doing some open-cut operations, we are required to de-water the pits as well.”
Bowes also explained that there are several steps to ensure that nearby water bodies are not polluted.
“Any water that we do need to discharge to the Isle aux Morts river will actually go through an effluent treatment plant,,” said Bowes. “So the water that comes out of the effluent treatment plant will be very, very clean, and that can then be discharged to the environment without any concerns.”
Bowes also added that they could start the construction of the processing facility and the start of the mine around 2025. Depending on how the shifts are arranged, Matador will be looking to employ between 180 to 240 people, but during the construction phase they may employ anywhere between 300 to 400 people. They will also be looking at area residents to fill these roles.
“There will be a wide range of jobs available to people,” promised Bowes.
He also explained that Matador Mining will have a closure plant in place to return the area to the natural land form.
“We want to be in a situation where we leave the condition of the site with minimal risk to the environment.”
Don Ivany, who works for the Atlantic Salmon Federation, voiced concerns about the wastewater going back into the river.
“That’s something that we do not support, and we’ve been engaged with the Marathon Gold project for the past couple of years or so now, and, you know, we’re familiar with the wastewater going back. It meets the mining standards but from what we have learned, I mean, it is, it’s something that I don’t think anybody here would want to drink, so that causes us some concern,” said Ivany.
Sferrazza responded on behalf of the company.
“Being a fish biologist, I’m always drilling it into all the contractors that come to our site, in fact we have an Environmental Protection plan just for our exploration phase, and there’s mitigation in there for everything. Trail building, drilling, trenching. And because we are on the banks of a scheduled salmon river, I mean, that’s on everybody’s mind, and we always try to maintain that 200-metre buffer. Even though we are doing an EA. Even when the mine is built, we’re staying outside of that buffer. I mean we have to build the haul road to get to the other side, but we’re going to do it in a way that we’re not going to impact any fish habitat, and I’m sure the DFO member on our EA Committee is going to hold our feet to the fire on that.”