Fortune Minerals looking to save construction costs and choose final NICO mine site

An aerial shot of mining equipment. (Supplied by Pexels.)
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Fortune Minerals says they are looking to cut costs and choose a digging site as they continue work on establishing the NICO Cobalt-Gold-Bismuth-Copper project.

The company, who is currently conducting development work at the NICO site, located northeast of Whati, around 160 kilometres northwest of Yellowknife issued their annual report on Wednesday.

The company says they were able to manage the pandemic reasonably well by conducting surveys while COVID-19 restrictions were in place, adding the work was supported by a $144,000 grant from the GNWT’s mining incentive program.

They said the pending completion of the Tłı̨chǫ Highway would help cut construction costs and would cut the construction timeline from three to two years.

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When operations start, NICO mine will be one of the few cobalt mines operational outside of the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has the world’s largest reserves of cobalt. Over 60 per cent of the world’s supply of cobalt is produced in the African nation.

The site contains 33 million tonnes of ore, including 1.1 million ounces of gold, 82.3 million pounds of cobalt, 102.1 million pounds of bismuth, and 27.2 million pounds of copp

The company estimates the site contains 12 per cent of the world’s bismuth reserves, Bismuth is used primarily in the automotive industry for windshield and glass frits, anti-corrosive paints coatings and in the making of some pharmaceuticals.

The project has extensive infrastructure spending in its future before it can become operational.

As well as the new refinery plant the company has planned for the mine in Saskatchewan, a new transload facility is under construction at Enterprise, providing Fortune with a second railway loading option. 

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Ore will be trucked to the station at Enterprise, and then travel by rail to the refinery plant down south.

“This would also eliminate 80 km of round trip trucking of metal concentrates, and reduce the transportation costs for other materials delivered to the mine during construction and operations,” Fortune Minerals said in a statement to investors.

The company is hoping some costs will be lowered by potentially constructing a 25-km powerline to Snare Hydro instead of building its own power plant using liquid natural gas-fueled generators — if the GNWT goes ahead with it’s proposal to connect the Yellowknife grid to the Taltson Hydro grid.

Fortune Minerals is set to receive another grant from the GNWT’s incentive program for the work planned in 2021.

The company said they are working with governments to secure further financing for the project and is planning a drilling program to test the five priority mining areas later this year.

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