Mining company cries foul over postponement of N.W.T. hearings

A mining company is concerned the postponement of public hearings on its NICO project could delay construction plans and add another year to a project that's already taken three-and-a-half years to review.

Fortune Minerals Ltd. wants to build a cobalt-gold and bismuth mine at its Nico property, located about 90 kilometres north of Behchoko, N.W.T.

A hearing was scheduled to be held in Behchoko at the Elizabeth Mackenzie School on August 1st and 2nd, but the hearings are now tentatively postponed until mid-October.

But the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board failed to book a meeting place before setting the dates.

"It was a mistake on our part that we hadn't nailed those venues down in advance, but we had made an assumption, unfortunately, and they weren't available when we needed them," said Verne Christensen, the board’s executive director.

The board announced the change the same day the board received a letter from the Tlicho government calling for a postponement.

In a letter to the board, Fortune said it's disappointed it wasn't consulted, that it would have been willing to charter buses to take people to Yellowknife to save the dates.

Fortune said the delay threatens plans to start hauling equipment and material to the mine site this winter.

The N.W.T. and Nunavut Chamber of Mines said the postponement sends a bad message to investors.

"We need to be signalling that this is a better place to do business than it's been in the last couple of years. These kinds of decisions don't add that confidence," said Tom Hoefer, the chamber’s president.

The review board will finalize a new date for the hearings at a meeting next week.

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