BY KEITH LACEY
It?s full steam ahead for one of the most promising nickel discoveries uncovered by Falconbridge Ltd. in the Sudbury region in many years.
The nickel giant held an open house and public information session regarding its Nickel Rim South Deposit Definition Project Thursday evening at the Skead Community Centre.
Members of Falconbridge?s project team, along with government representatives, were on hand to answer questions in relation to the promising development, located three kilometres north of the Sudbury Airport.
The Nickel Rim deposit was discovered by Falconbridge two years ago in November 2001.
The company is currently involved in ?Phase 4? of the Nickel Rim project, which involves intensive drilling from surface, said Dale Coffin, Falconbridge?s director of external communications.
?We currently have six drills running full-time from surface,? said Coffin. ?We?re in the final stages of a feasibility study relating to our plans to sink a shaft and commence underground exploration.?
This past summer, Falconbridge began construction to sink an exploration shaft at the Nickel Rim site. The company plans to continue intensive underground exploration until the spring or summer of 2008 before a decision will be made on whether or not to make the Nickel Rim deposit an operational mine.
?The next five years will determine exactly what we?re going to do,? he said. ?It?s too early in the process to determine just exactly how large a find this is, but initial estimates are there is about eight million tonnes of ore with a grade of 1.7 per cent nickel, which is the average grade of nickel across this region.?
If the estimates are correct, an eight million tonne deposit could sustain a working mine for six to eight years and obviously longer if there?s more nickel than estimated, said Coffin.
The underground exploration program is being undertaken to better define the ore deposit, which also contains high grades of copper and some precious metals, said Coffin.
Surface infrastructure will include an access road, a headframe and hoisthouse, temporary shop, office and dry facilities and a wastewater management system.
Thursday evening?s public information session are required by the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines whenever a new mining project is undertaken, said Coffin.
?We want to be there to answer questions from the people and we also have to provide details about closing the mine site should it be determined we won?t be proceeding with an underground mining operation after this phase of the project is completed,? he said.
If the Nickel Rim deposit does prove to be economically viable to mine, it would only take a matter of weeks to begin full production in 2008, said Coffin.
?Because we have sunk the shaft, it wouldn?t take long to get into full production,? he said.