NorZinc Ltd. has begun preparing for the first phase of the 170-km road that will connect its proposed Prairie Creek Mine with Highway 7, the Liard Highway.

Construction of the Pioneer Winter Road (PWR) will begin in mid-October, provided that company has sufficient financing.

In an announcement on Sept. 19, NorZinc said it will initially focus on two sections of the project: from the prospective zinc-silver-lead mine through the mountains to Cat Camp at kilometre 40 and from the north side of the Liard River, “whereby the crews will construct a wildlife clearing trail whose aim is to safely pre-clear wildlife from the area.” It’s anticipated that both of those stretches will be complete by the end of the year.

Work on an ice bridge is expected to get underway in early December, with passage possible by the first quarter of 2023, if all goes according to plan. The winter road is to eventually become an all-season route.

A CAT 315 excavator and a skid-steer, with help from a bulldozer and rock trucks, will be used to construct the section of winter road from the mine to Cat Camp. A heavy-lift helicopter brought some pieces of equipment to the prospective mine site.

“The start of the winter road work at Prairie Creek is a significant turning point for the company as it signifies the start the overall construction of the project and the beginning of the transition into the development phase,” said Rohan Hazelton, NorZinc’s president and CEO. “Following the recent permitting milestone of the receipt of the land-use permit for mining at the project, the company is confident that the work we have been doing with the regulatory bodies will be reflected accordingly with respect to timing of the final permits for construction of the PWR.

“Preparation work of the PWR is key to remaining on track with our targeted road construction schedule and production expected in late 2025. This initial work keeps the project progressing while we await the final management plan approvals for full construction of the PWR,” Hazelton added.

A barge ferries an excavator across the Liard River. Photo courtesy of NorZinc

Based on the company’s 2021 mineral resource estimate for Prairie Creek, there’s 9.8 million tonnes of total measured and indicated resources at 22.7 per cent zinc equivalent and 6.4 M tonnes of total inferred resources at 24.1 per cent zinc equivalent.

The 2021 preliminary economic assessment projects a 20-year mine life at Prairie Creek with throughout of 2,400 tonnes per day and average payable zinc equivalent production of 261 million pounds yearly.

The proposed mine has been in various stage of development for several decades but it has yet to go into production.

Derek Neary

Derek Neary has been reporting on developments in the North for 18 years. When he's not writing for Nunavut News, he's working on Northern News Services' special publications such as Opportunities North,...

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