Porcupine Gold Mines (PGM) has received its final environmental approval from the province, paving the way for work to start on its Hollinger open pit mine.
The environmental compliance approval (ECA) focused on noise, vibration and dust associated with the project, and was awarded by the Ministry of the Environment in early December.
Located adjacent to Timmins' downtown core. the Hollinger site involves the repurposing of an historic underground mine, which operated for close to 60 years before closing in 1968. PGM, a subsidiary of Goldcorp. has spent $8 million to fill subsidences and other hazards that remain on the property.
The new project proposes eliminating the remaining hazards by removing the land around them and creating one large opening. The open-pit operation will recover the gold remaining underground over an eight-year mine life. Ore will be processed at the company's mill located at its nearby Dome Mine.
Planning for the project has been ongoing since about 2006, but work on the site has got off to a sluggish start.
"We're just starting slowly" said Marc Lauzier. PGM's general manager. "It's just a little slower getting started and obviously getting a permit just before Christmas complicates things a little bit."
The stripping of overburden began in December as the company readied for blasting and road construction in the new year.
Work was set to start immediately on a berm surrounding the pit, designed to control noise, dust and vibration. Mining is set to start in 2014, as construction on the berm continues, but at a moderate pace and only during the day to start.
"So the first year. there's mining and blasting going on. but I'd say it's at a reduced rate and it's only on day shift in order for us to get the berm completed and get us set up so we can properly do things and have a low impact on the community, especially at nighttime when people are sleeping," Lauzier said.
Though the project looks different now than it did in Porcupine's original proposal, it's not entirely accurate to say the scope of the project has changed, Lauzier said.
The company started permitting the project in 2007, at which time gold prices were drastically different than they are now. PGM is modelling the project on a lower gold price now, and is envisioning a smaller pit shell for mining, but the project is still being permitted according to the size of the original pit. Lauzier said.
"We haven't proven the economics yet, so we've got a whole...