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Mine looks to a brighter future
Canadian Zinc re-examining cost to open Prairie Creek

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, February 6, 2014

Staff at the Canadian Zinc Corporation are watching the markets closely because the future of Prairie Creek Mine depends heavily on them.

nnsl photo

The Canadian Zinc Corporation presented the Nahanni Butte Dene Band with a cheque for a confidential amount on Jan. 15 as part of the impact and benefit agreement the company has with the First Nation. The people involved in the presentation included David Harpley, left, vice-president of permitting and environmental affairs, Coun. Lorraine Vital, Stacey Marcellais, mine administrative assistant, Coun. Jayne Konisenta, sub-chief Peter Marcellais, Alan Taylor, vice-president of exploration, Coun. Tammy Matou, Wilbert Antoine, manager of northern development and Chris Reeves, general manager. - photo courtesy of Canadian Zinc Corporation

In mid-January, the company held meetings in both Fort Simpson and Nahanni Butte to provide updates on the work that has been done in the last six months and what the future may look like. Since last fall, Canadian Zinc has held all of the significant regulatory permits it needs to start production at the mine site. Finding financing to upgrade and build the mine site, however, has been a barrier.

"The market has been in the doldrums for all of 2013. While there may be some signs of some light in 2014 it's early yet and it's tough sledding as far as raising money," said Alan Taylor, the company's vice-president of exploration and chief operating officer.

In June 2012, a pre-fesability study estimated that it would cost more than $200 million to open the mine. Canadian Zinc is currently undertaking an engineering optimization study to finds ways to reduce those capital costs.

"We think it can be reduced significantly, but by how much we aren't sure yet, but any less is better" he said.

Engineers have combed through the infrastructure of the buildings and the machinery already in place at the mine site to determine what can be used or repaired and what needs to be replaced, said Taylor. The previous study took more of a broad brush approach.

Apart from the study, no other work is taking place at the mine this winter. No activity has been planned for the winter road, either.

Ideally, Canadian Zinc would like to secure the financing to upgrade and build the mine site by the middle of this year. If that happened, equipment would be brought in on the winter road of 2015, the site would be upgraded and then the first concentrate could come out as early as the winter road of 2016, Taylor said.

No plans have been made yet for the summer season at the mine, either. Those will depend on the engineering optimization study and the market, he said.

"Stay tuned, have patience and it will happen," said Taylor.

The mining cycle is currently at a low point, but Canadian Zinc has seen a number of cycles take place.

"We know that it's going to come back, we just don't know how soon and how strong," he said.

In addition to providing information about Prairie Creek, Canadian Zinc also made cheque presentations for confidential amounts to Liidlii Kue First Nation in Fort Simpson Jan. 14 and to the Nahanni Butte Dene Band on Jan. 15. Receiving permits trigger parts of the impact and benefit agreements the company has with the two First Nations.

"It was our intention to honor our commitments and we did so," said Taylor.

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