September 17, 2014 / 1:33 PM / in 3 years

Pretium sees no delay to Canada gold project from mine spill

DENVER (Reuters) - Pretium Resources Inc does not expect any delays in regulatory approvals for a gold mine it wants to build in British Columbia despite a massive waste spill at another company’s project in the Western Canadian province, the small Canadian miner’s chief executive officer said.

Pretium, whose Brucejack project is one of the highest-grade gold finds of recent times, still expects a go-ahead decision from the provincial and federal governments in the first quarter of 2015, CEO Robert Quartermain said on Tuesday.

“We don’t see any impediments or delays in that regard,” Quartermain told Reuters at the Denver Gold Forum, an annual industry conference.

While he expects regulatory scrutiny, he said, “we believe the science behind what we are intending to do here will show it is the best alternative.”

Last month, billions of gallons of sludge containing metals and minerals coursed into waterways after a breach of a dam holding back a huge pond of tailings, or waste materials, at Imperial Metals Corp’s Mount Polley mine in British Columbia.

The cause of the breach at the copper and gold mine is under investigation.

The provincial government has ordered an independent review of all tailings ponds at every permitted mine in the famously “green” province. Some industry analysts have said the spill could delay or even derail mining projects located there.

“Although we place a high probability on permitting success, the recent tailings failure at Mount Polley is likely to remain an overhang,” RBC Capital Markets analyst Dan Rollins said in a Sept. 3 research note.

Quartermain said half of the tailings from Pretium’s underground mine would go back below ground, while the rest would go into the bottom of an existing lake that contains no fish.

“From that respect we don’t have a tailings dam or facility,” he said.

Although there is much environmental opposition to dumping tailings in lakes, the decades-old practice has been used at many well-known mines, including Barrick Gold Corp’s now-closed Eskay Creek project in British Columbia.

With proven and probable gold reserves of 6.9 million ounces at a grade of 15.7 grams per tonne, Pretium’s Brucejack mine stands out in an industry where reserve grades are closer to 1 gram per tonne.

The mine is not without critics. Last October, an independent mining industry consultant quit the project and accused Pretium of making “erroneous and misleading” claims about its mineral resources. Pretium said at the time it had “significant concerns” about those conclusions.

Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson and Lisa Von Ahn

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