The gold mining sector is depressed, in Canada, in North America and around the world. Pick any gold mining company and look at its share price in the last 18 months. Meanwhile in northern Quebec, the Éléonore gold project moves ahead in partnership with the First Nation.
The Éléonore project and it has been moved forward in an exemplary way. “In February 2011 we announced that after a successful negotiation with our Cree partners we had reached a collaboration agreement with our First Nation partners, the Cree Nation of Wemindji, the Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee) and the Cree Regional Authority.”
Construction started in November 2011, and has progressed excellently. A 63 kilometre road was built from the La Sarcelle Hydro-Quebec power plant which is located 60 kilometres from James Bay Highway, a 60 kilometre power line brought to the site, an airstrip constructed complete with communications tower. All in all Goldcorp has invested $130 million in infrastructure at Éléonore. Éléonore is a fly-in-fly-out operation served by Air Creebec, however a 400 person permanent camp is under construction.
A committee comprising 50 percent Cree and 50 percent Goldcorp employees meets regularly with the objective of maximising Cree employment, training and retention. One of Goldcorp’s proudest innovations has been the way it manages its tailings at Éléonore. The company states “In consultation the Cree made it very clear they didn’t want traditional tailings management involving a large body of water under which we would do the tailings deposition. Water is very important to them. So we decided to filter 85 percent of the water and transport the thickened tailings truck by truck to the tailings facility.” The area is rehabilitated progressively, so that be the end of the project the tailings will have been already 95 percent revegetated.
Underground exploration drilling from the recently completed Gaumond exploration shaft will accelerate in 2013, enabling further definition drilling of the deep portion of the Roberto deposit to procced. The exploration ramp excavation continues to advance and currently, four diamond drills are conducting definition drilling from strategic working platforms in the ramp. First production is expected in late 2014. Éléonore has an estimated 3 M oz of gold in its deposit reserves.
Goldcorp (ticker G on TSX) trades at $28.33. It has gone straight down (like most gold mining stocks) in price over the past year declining from $45 last Sep. Goldcorp has a market cap of $23 B and is based in Vancouver.
Goldcorp has done a good job in bringing Éléonore (almost) into production. The high degree of cooperation with the Cree is noteworthy, particularly the involvement in mine tailings treatment.
The Quebec Cree have empowered themselves and taken the lead in economic development. The CBC article (source c) contrasts the Cree approach with the approach used in the community of Attawapiskat, in northern Ontario, on the other side of James Bay.