Ottawa Citizen

New Chi­nese deal be­fore Cab­i­net

State-owned MMG Min­er­als plans huge mine project


An­other mas­sive Chi­ne­se­owned re­source project is be­fore Prime Min­is­ter Stephen Harper’s cab­i­net.

Some time in the new year, four fed­eral min­is­ters are to de­cide how to con­duct an en­vi­ron­men­tal re­view for the Izok Cor­ri­dor pro­posal.

It could bring many bil­lions of dol­lars into the Arc­tic but would also see devel­op­ment of open-pit mines, roads, ports and other fa­cil­i­ties in the cen­tre of calv­ing grounds for the frag­ile Bathurst cari­bou herd.

“This is go­ing to be the big­gest is­sue,” said Sally Fox, a spokes­woman for pro­po­nent MMG Min­er­als, a sub­sidiary of the Chi­nese state-owned Min­metals Re­sources Ltd.

It would be hard to ex­ag­ger­ate the pro­posal’s scope. Cen­tred at Izok Lake, about 260 kilo­me­tres south­east of Kugluk­tuk, the project would stretch through­out a vast swath of west­ern Nu­navut.

Izok Lake would have five sep­a­rate un­der­ground and open-pit mines pro­duc­ing lead, zinc and cop­per.

An­other site at High Lake, 300 kilo­me­tres to the north­east, would have an­other three mines.

MMG also wants a pro­cess­ing plant that could han­dle 6,000 tonnes of ore a day, tank farms for 35 mil­lion litres of diesel, two per­ma­nent camps to­talling 1,000 beds, airstrips and a 350-kilo­me­tre all-weather road with 70 bridges that would stretch from Izok Lake to Grays Bay on the cen­tral Arc­tic coast.

MMG plans a port there that could ac­com­mo­date ships of up to 50,000 tonnes that would make 16 round trips a year — both east and west — through the North­west Pas­sage.

Izok Lake would be drained, the water dammed and di­verted to a nearby lake. Three smaller lakes at High Lake would also be drained.

Grays Bay would be sub­stan­tially filled in.

The re­sult would be a project pro­duc­ing 180,000 tonnes of zinc and an­other 50,000 tonnes of cop­per a year.

“That’s not in­signif­i­cant,” Fox dead­panned.

The de­posits are an old story. Izok was dis­cov­ered in the late 1970s and High Lake dates back to the 1950s. They’d been owned by a half­dozen dif­fer­ent com­pa­nies be­fore they were ac­quired by Min­metals in 2009.

Their time has come, said Fox.

“They’re very much about our fu­ture con­fi­dence in zinc,” she said from Mel­bourne, Aus­tralia, where MMG is head­quar­tered. “We see in the next few years a num­ber of ma­jor zinc mines will be coming off-line.”

One of those is MMG’s own Cen­tury mine, which pro­duces 500,000 tonnes of zinc an­nu­ally.

“Be­tween the Izok Cor­ri­dor project in Canada and our other project in Aus­tralia, we would be hop­ing that they would re­place the zinc pro­duc­tion of our Cen­tury mine,” Fox said.

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