Three years of mining exploration for the Blackwater Project has yielded no lost-time incidents, including two years of no reportable accidents, New Gold said.
Celebrating the safety milestone with employees and contractors on Oct. 6, along with a $5,000 donation to the Nechako Valley Search and Rescue (NVSR), project director Tim Bekhuys said it’s an opportunity to show appreciation for the 500,000 work hours in the past three years from staff — 70 per cent of which were locally hired.
“We try to make sure that we walk the talk and hire locally, along with that comes the responsibility of making sure that those people are safe as well,” said Bekhuys.
Located 110 km southwest of Vanderhoof, the Blackwater Project will be an open-pit gold and silver mine with an estimated 17-year lifespan and the potential to produce 485,000 ounces of gold per year for the first nine years, according to New Gold.
As the project takes place in a potential wildfire location, with a short-term evacuation in 2014 that did not harm workers or structures, the camp team had provided ongoing camp services such as housing and meals to wildfire crews, helicopter pilots, and engineers as well.
“Certainly in New Gold, we see it as our responsibility to get every worker home safe,” Bekhuys said. “So we take safety very seriously, and we monitor the safety in all of our sites very closely on a daily basis.”
According to New Gold, Blackwater will employ between 1,200 and 1,500 workers during the construction of the mine and 500 workers to operate the mine once construction is complete.
As the project shuts down for the winter and continued its environmental assessment process, New Gold is looking to meet with the local community through a series of open house sessions before Christmas, he said.
Mine-building at Blackwater is expected to start in early 2018, after the company finishes construction of the Rainy River mine in northwest Ontario in mid-2017, he added.
“Our goal right now is to have the project shovel ready over the next year or so,” Bekhuys said. “ We have great support from the community and we want to make sure that jobs and contracts are going to local people…and partnerships with the FIrst Nations in the area as well.”
New Gold’s $5,000 donation to NVSR will furnish the team’s new location on Burrard Avenue and make it into a training centre, as their recent grant application failed, said president Chris Mushumanski.
It is now the mining company’s third donation to NVSR, as the first in 2012 contributed to a First Aid stretcher with wheel attachment, and another donation in January this year went into more First Aid and swift water rescue equipment, Mushumanski added.
“It’s been a tremendous opportunity for us to be acknowledged by them and we are really grateful for the support that New Gold has provided over the years to the SR team,” he said.
The BC Search and Rescue Association is currently proposing an alternative support model that would provide stable funding for the 80 SAR groups in B.C., said Mushumanski, who is also the association’s Bulkley Nechako regional director.
Including three proposals that will be presented to the B.C. government, the model will remove the annual burden of grant writing and fundraising, he said.
“Otherwise we really don’t have any predictable sources of funds for capital projects and training, and equipment purchases that we needed.”