Hay River could see up to 150 spin-off jobs from a proposed mining project.
Avalon Rare Metals Inc. is proposing a mine and processing plant on the shores of Great Slave Lake.
The Nechalacho project would include a rare earth elements mine at Thor Lake on the north side of the lake and a hydrometallurgical plant at Pine Point.
For now, the project is waiting on an environmental review process before development and construction can go ahead to mine rare earth elements from lanthanum to lutetium.
The ore will be barged to Pine Point for initial processing before being trucked to Hay River to be moved south by rail.
Hay River Mayor Andrew Cassidy and the town’s economic co-ordinator Jordan Stackhouse attended a Feb. 22 public hearing in Fort Resolution of the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board in order to throw support behind the project.
“The general sense I got was acceptance that the project is going forward,” said Cassidy of the Fort Resolution meeting. “Members of the community said they’d like to see mitigations before the project goes ahead and the approach we took was to throw our support behind it. We’re hoping for an opportunity to benefit our region and all of our communities.”
The town has been working in consultation with Avalon Rare Metals for the past two years. In those years, Cassidy said the company has been forthcoming with information about the project.
Stackhouse said he can see up to 150 jobs in the Hay River area, from transporting materials on NTCL barges to shipping on CN rail.
While there were some concerns from Fort Resolution residents on the environmental impact of the project, Chief Louis Balsillie of Deninu Ku’e First Nation said the project is generally supported, with a few kinks to iron out.
Avalon Rare Metals CEO Don Bubar said the project could also help power generation networks by creating electricity for other infrastructures throughout the NWT.
Bubar also said the project will bring 300 jobs at the two sites.
Once public hearings have been completed and the environmental assessment is accepted, the construction process could be underway in less than three months.
Bubar also said, while there will always be environmental impact in projects of this scale, developers have worked to reduce them, noting the underground mine will not affect waterways and the noise of crushing will be muffled.
“It’s all about how you manage those impacts and mitigate risks on communities – that’s what this is all about at the end of the day,” said Bubar. “We designed the project to minimize impact on the environment as best we could. It’s pretty clear that potential economic benefits outweigh potential impact. Three hundred jobs, that’s huge for the North.”
— Angele Cano