The Tulsequah project is not a new discovery to the mining industry – it was mined in the 1950s and there has been significant development on the site over the past 15 to 20 years, according to Paul Chawrun, executive vice president of corporate development for Chieftain Metals Inc. But Tulsequah has much more potential, Chawrun notes, and Chieftain Metals plans to explore that to its fullest as part of the company’s growing operations.
“This site contains a very high-grade deposit and the value of its rock is very high,” he explains. “Once we overcome the property’s infrastructure challenges, we will have access to a very high-value deposit. As a result, our operating margins will be quite robust, and once we get going, we expect to be one of the lowest-cost producers in the world.”
Incorporated in 2010, Chieftain Metals focuses on the acquisition, exploration and development of mineral properties. From the start, the company has been dedicated to the acquisition of the Tulsequah project, which consists of 38 mineral claims and Crown-grants, and covers approximately 14,200 hectares. The site is located in northwestern British Columbia on the Tulsequah River, near the intersection with the Taku River. With resources such as zinc, copper, lead, gold and silver, the Tulsequah property is at an advanced-development stage and contains Tulsequah Chief and Big Bull – two past-producing mines from the 1950s – as well as approximately 54 square miles of exploration ground.
Tulsequah Chief and Big Bull were operated from 1951 to 1957. The two underground mines had conventional mining processing methods and well-understood coarse-grained metallurgy, Chawrun explains. In 1989, Redfern conducted some exploration work in the area, and Wardrop Engineering completed a feasibility study in 2007 on behalf of Redcorp Ventures. Redcorp went into receivership in 2009, which is what led to Chieftain’s purchase of the property.
A network of roads and logistical infrastructure are in place at Tulsequah, but the site still needs more work. Chieftain has acquired the previously issued environmental approval certificate, and is in the process of acquiring the permits necessary for the project’s development to progress.
“During the last 60 years, the rock from the previous mine interacted with the site’s groundwater, which flowed into the Tulsequah River,” according to Chawrun. “Our first step was to construct a water treatment facility to clean the acidic water resulting from the legacy mining.”
Chieftain Metals’ next steps, he says, are to finish the feasibility study. “The feasibility study will form the basis for our future financing,” he notes. The company also plans to construct a new road to improve access to the site.
The Tulsequah project primarily has zinc, copper, gold and silver deposits, as well as a small amount of lead, but this is only part of what Chieftain Metals has going for it. The company is dedicated to being a responsible developer and maintaining focus on the triple bottom line – economic, environmental and social.
As evidenced by its implementation of water treatment at the site, Chieftain Metals is eliminating legacy environmental issues through the development of the Tulsequah mine, and that is just one example of its environmental focus. Additionally, the company plans to hire its workforce locally as much as possible.
“The town of Atlin has a population of 300 in the winter and about 1,000 in the summer. This is a very small population base that we are hiring from, so we plan to provide training programs to develop skills for a localized workforce.”
In May 2011, Chieftain Metals and the Taku River Tlingit First Nation (TRTFN) signed a letter of understanding in relation to the Tulsequah Chief mine, which is located in TRTFN territory. The letter establishes processes for future negotiations between the groups, and covers advanced exploration activities and operation of the water treatment plant.
Chieftain Metals notes both parties are committed to “meaningful dialogue with the intention of building a respectful and trusting relationship.”
“We are dedicated to responsible sustainable development and to operate with integrity,” Chawrun says. “We have a strong team.” EMI