Pine Point, N.W.T., could have a fully operational lead and zinc mine within the next five years — nearly four decades after the old mine closed down and the nearby community was abandoned.
In 2022, Pine Point Mining Limited received its Type A water licence, allowing it to withdraw water to be used for mineral exploration drilling, camp use, dust suppression and testing, among other things.
The site is located in between Hay River and Fort Resolution.
Jeff Hussey is the president and COO of Osisko Metals, which owns Pine Point Limited. He said the company has set up around six drill rigs.
"These permits and this drilling are the major milestones needed to update our mineral resource estimate and also to allow us to perform test work needed for the feasibility study," he said.
A feasibility study is required for any sort of engineering project to determine the cost and economic potential of the project.
Hussey said he expects the work on the feasibility study to begin at some point this year.
The company hopes to begin construction around 2026, and the project is estimated to take one and a half years to build. It's expected to operate for 10 to 15 years, followed by five years of closure and reclamation work.
Osisko owns the former Pine Point mine, a mine that supported an entire community of the same name.
The Pine Point community at one time had a population of nearly 2,000, and was eventually abandoned when the mine closed down in the late 1980s due to a drop in the price of base metals.
Hussey said it's unlikely the community will be re-established, but he does expect the future mine to employ somewhere around 450 people, meaning there could be a sizeable camp at the work site.
Could be a top producer of zinc, company says
Hussey said he expects the mine to become one of the world's top 10 producers of zinc.
"So we're pretty certain that that'll be the case because there's not many large zinc projects in the pipeline currently," he said.
He also said the zinc at the Pine Point project is a clean, high-grade concentrate.
"It's what we call premium quality," Hussey said.
He said zinc is a particularly important element right now, because of its future in the green economy. Zinc is used to galvanize metals, meaning a metal is dipped into a molten or liquid form of it, which protects the metal from corrosion.
Hussey said most modern construction projects are going to want to galvanize their rebar, reinforced steel that's inside cement construction, to ensure it lasts up to 100 or even 200 years instead of 50, which was previously the norm.
Lead is also an important metal for the green economy, according to Osisko's website, as it is used for wind generation and the longevity of solar panels.