An old Kootenay mine is getting a second chance at life.
Tyler Rice, accountant by day entrepreneur by night, is leading the way to restart the Jersey-Emerald Mine just outside of Salmo. Located 10 kilometres (km) southeast of the village in the Nelson Mining Division, the tungsten-zinc producing site known as “the Emerald” was shut down 43 years ago — but not because the mine ran dry. Rather low commodity prices and heavy taxes forced the previous owner Canex (Canadian Exploration Company) to close the site and 1973 then option the property 20 years later.
Margaux Resources, a publicly traded resource company based in Calgary, acquired the Jersey-Emerald Project in 2014.
With hard dollars and a ton of passion invested in the Emerald, Rice recently moved from Alberta to the Nelson area. As CEO (Chief Executive Officer) and president of Marguax Resources, he presented the project to Trail officials during the May 24 council meeting.
“Prior to restarting, Margaux is committed to working with local communities and part of that is coming to council and mayor,” he began. “To educate everybody on what we are doing in your backyard.”
The company has surface and mineral rights to over 30,000 acres of property, but the plan is to start small. Limited zinc-lead production is the goal over the next year, then a move into larger scale zinc-lead and tungsten mining becomes the target within 24 months.
“We are looking to employ a local work force, as we define as anywhere in the West Kootenay,” Rice said, noting WestCore Drilling from Salmo was hired for the first leg of work in 2014.
Although the property nestled rurally and stood dormant so long, 12 km of underground infrastructure and road access remains in good working order, hydro power is nearby and a natural gas line runs adjacent to the property line.
Historically, the Emerald was the second largest lead zinc mine in B.C. as well as Canada’s second largest historic tungsten mine, Rice continued.
“We initially focused on tungsten but as the global economy has shifted from supporting tungsten, we’ve shifted our focus internally to lead zinc,” he added. “Our longer term vision would be to start up large scale lead zinc with the option of switching over to tungsten depending on the global markets. And there’s potential expansion…with regards to other properties within the Kootenay arc as defined by our geologists.”
The main point being, that development does not include any surface tailings, Rice clarified.
“What we will plan…is tailings under ground, which we feel greatly mitigates any environmental concerns,” he said. “Because tailings have a negative connotation with them and we feel we can store in a safe area underground and not expose the community. But you will see settling ponds as part of the process.”
He said there’s over 30 km of underground access available for expansion, equating to more than four million square-feet currently intact.
“Throughout this we’ll be working towards the environmental assessment for larger scale operation which we feel could be upwards of two years on the different processes involved with this program” Rice noted. “But we want to start the conversation with local partners and communities, now.”
At this point, Rice says the number of jobs created isn’t a given, but will become more clear as mining operations advance.
“We are estimating approximately 10 people but that will be more clearly defined as we get into the areas for drilling and find the extent of the zone as we move into the bulk sample program,” he added. “That will be more labour intensive and that will mean more jobs.”