Alexco Resource Corp. is moving toward bringing its Keno Hill Silver District back into production this year, says a senior company official.
Brad Thrall, Alexco’s chief operating officer, told the Star today the company has to reach a few milestones before it makes a final decision.
But it is already attaining some of those milestones, and it’s reasonable to suggest the company could be back in production later this year, he said. He added he didn’t want to tie the company to a specific date.
Thrall emphasized Alexco will need the required regulatory approvals to bring the recently discovered, high-grade Bermingham silver deposit into production before anything happens, he said.
Thrall did point out the company has already hired a couple of millwrights to begin re-commissioning the mill in Keno City. It’s currently looking to hire a maintenance supervisor.
“It’s all moving in the right direction,” Thrall said. “We do not necessarily want to put a firm date out there because things are subject to change.”
He mentioned there are world metal prices, the regulatory process and additional underground drilling at Bermingham to consider, for instance.
The mining plan as envisioned right now is to mine both the Bermingham deposit and the already permitted Flame and Moth deposit at the same time, Thrall explained.
Approvals to mine the Bermingham deposit are needed, or at least need to be well in sight before production will begin again, he said.
The company has submitted its development and production plans for the Bermingham deposit for screening.
The Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board posted the project proposal this morning. The public has until Feb. 22 to provide its comments.
After a lengthy process to gain ownership of the Keno Hill Silver District and the assets held previously by the bankrupt United Keno Hill Mines Ltd., Alexco built a new mill in Keno City.
It began mining the Bellekeno deposit in 2011 but shut down in 2013, in part because of declining silver prices.
Alexco CEO Clynt Nauman was unavailable for an interview this morning, as he was travelling.
He has, however, said in recent months the company was hoping to fire back up in 2018, depending on how quickly it could get through the regulatory process.
Alexco requires amendments to its Quartz Mining Licence and its water licence before it can bring Bermingham into production, says today’s public notice issued by the assessment board.
Nauman has also emphasized recently if the company goes back into production based on mining Bermingham and the other deposits already permitted for production, it wants to stay in production.
Starting up and shutting is just too hard on everybody, Nauman has said.
Nauman and Alexco have credited the discovery of Bermingham’s true size and value to the persistence of geologist Seymour Iles.
Bermingham had been drilled early in Alexco’s exploration days, though it was not being pursued as a primary target because results did not show promise nor anything big.
Nauman has explained it was through the persistence of Iles that he allowed him to spend some money in 2014 to do some drilling on Bermingham.
Such were the results that Alexco dedicated $1.5 million to Bermingham in 2015, then threw everything it had at it in 2016, the CEO has explained.
Bermingham, in Nauman’s words, was a game changer.
Thrall said it’s likely the future will be much clearer this summer or early fall, when the company intends to publish an updated feasibility study.
Should Alexco go back into production, it would need about 160 to 170 employees dedicated to the Keno Hill project, he said.
Thrall said there are currently 40 employees working in the silver district, 65 to 70 per cent of them Yukoners.