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Mactung Project gets nod from regulator

Tungsten-skarn deposit is one of the world's largest outside of China; project would boost producer's output by nearly 100 percent

After more than five years of review, the Yukon Environmental and Economic Assessment Board has recommended approval of a proposed underground mine for development of the Mactung tungsten deposit in east-central Yukon Territory.

Mactung, located near Yukon Territory's border with Northwest Territories to the east, is being advanced by North American Tungsten Corporation Ltd., one of the world's largest suppliers of tungsten concentrates outside China.

The company, which submitted a project proposal for Mactung to the board's executive committee on Dec. 24, 2008, plans to build the mine near the Macmillan Pass and North Canol Road north of its existing Cantung mine for a projected cost exceeding C$350 million.

The Mactung site contains an indicated mineral resource of 33 million metric tons of ore, and is considered one of the world's largest known undeveloped, high-grade tungsten-skarn deposits. The mine site is located in the Selwyn Mountain Range about eight kilometers (five miles) northwest of Macmillan Pass on the edge of Mount Allan. The Mactung Project would involve two years of construction, an 11-year mine life and two years for reclamation and closure.

N.A. Tungsten proposes to design, construct, operate, maintain, and decommission a tungsten extraction and concentrating operation at the east-central Yukon location primarily by extracting tungsten-bearing ore from Mount Allan using underground longhole blasting, stoping and cut-and-fill mining, and concentrate the tungsten mineral at a milling rate of 2,000 metric tons per day, using a scheelite gravity and flotation process. The tungsten producer aims to transport the concentrate to market via Edmonton, Alberta and Vancouver.

The company has said it will build a camp to house about 250 personnel during construction and 150 workers during operation.

N.A. Tungsten currently produces about 1,050 short tons per day, or 383,000 tons per year, of tungsten concentrates at the Cantung Mine, located in the Nahanni area of western NWT, about 300 kilometers (186 miles) by road northeast of Watson Lake, Yukon, and 160 kilometers (99 miles) southeast of the Mactung deposit. Cantung's current mine life extends to 2015.

Important milestone

YESAB, Yukon's regulator for environmental screening of mine projects March 10 released its findings in a Final Screening Report, recommending that the "Mactung Mine Project be allowed to proceed without [further] review."

The assessment board also said the mine will have significant negative effects on the environment, but they can be mitigated under certain terms and conditions. It further issued a host of recommendations that covered a wide range of activities with a strong focus on protecting water resources in the area.

"Approval by YESAB represents an important milestone in our efforts to bring the Mactung Project into production," said N.A. Tungsten Chairman and CEO Kurt Heikkila in a statement March 17.

"This unique mineral property will be developed in due course in an environmentally sensitive way with extraction and milling processes that will minimize the mine's footprint on the surrounding lands.

As YESAB recognized, NTC is committed to responsible stewardship of the property.

Mactung is located on lands that have been used traditionally by First Nations, including the Kaska Dena and the First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun.

Through their participation in public hearings and face-to-face meetings, the Kaska Dena, their traditional knowledge team from the Ross River Dena Council, and the Ross River elders have enabled us to better appreciate what responsible land stewardship means to traditional communities.

We will continue to work with them and learn from them and their communities," Heikkila continued.

Under provisions of the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act, the final step in the environmental assessment process will be the release within 81 days of a decision document by the territorial and federal governments. Like the final screening report, the decision document will contain conditions governing operations at Mactung and a list of proponent commitments.


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