Pretivm Resources’ Brucejack gold mine nears production

Joseph Ovsenek, president and CEO of Pretivm Resources Inc., is excited about this high-grade gold mine

by Jillian Clark
A view of the Brucejack mine buildings in April 2017 with patches of snow on the landscape

The Brucejack site is located approximately 65 kilometres north of Stewart, B.C. — Photo courtesy Pretivm Resources Inc.

Joseph Ovsenek, president and CEO of Pretivm Resources Inc., is excited to see its Brucejack gold mine move into full operation by the end of spring 2017. The process to get to this point, while faster than most, required a lot of hard work from the Pretivm team. Exploration on the property began years before Pretivm jumped in to move the property along at an unprecedented pace.

“We have two zones that we are developing into a mine: the West Zone and the Valley of the Kings,” Ovsenek explained. The West Zone was discovered in the 1980s, was permitted to go into production, but never moved forward. The area passed through several hands before Pretivm purchased the property in 2010, seeing it as a promising resource. The Valley of the Kings is the real zone of interest.

Permitting and financing

After acquiring the property, the Pretivm team quickly moved onto a feasibility study for the area.

“Once we had the feasibility study finalized, we pushed hard on our permitting and on our financing to build the mine,” Ovsenek said. Pretivm moved the Brucejack mine at record speed through permitting and financing.

Pretivm received permits to start construction, with the final permits arriving at the end of August and beginning of September in 2015. “We pushed," said Ovsenek, "right from discovery through to even now.

“We’ve been pushing hard to get to production. We worked hard at advancing the project through the permitting phase and getting financing. We always had a sense of urgency.”

An infograph that shows the milestones from feasibility to production of the Brucejack gold mine

This infograph shows the milestones from feasibility to production of the Brucejack gold mine. — Image courtesy Pretivm Resources Inc.

Fortunately, the reception of permits “was concurrent with arranging our financing structure,” said Ovsenek, “which we announced on September 15, 2015, and closed on December 22, 2015.”

Construction

The construction phases proved more challenging than the previous steps for the northwestern British Columbia Brucejack property. “I think the biggest challenge is getting used to operating through the winter,” said Ovsenek. “We’ve been doing it since 2011, but we had to learn how.”

Dealing with an average of four to five metres of snow throughout the winter, the Pretivm team had to adopt new construction methods. The challenge of the elements is one that all northern mines must overcome, especially compared to the mild work environments of their southern counterparts.

A broader view of the Brucejack mine site in June 2016

The Brucejack site required construction adjustments due to its northern climate. — Photo courtesy Pretivm Resources Inc.

The winter of 2015 and 2016 was ultimately successful at the Brucejack property. “We worked through the winter with a lot of snow, but completed all the bulk earth work in getting the site levelled so that when spring came, we could focus on getting our mill building up and our camp in,” he said. “In April 2016, we started putting the foundation in for our mill building.”

At the same time, Pretivm began building its permanent 330-person camp with modules arriving from Edmonton, Alberta. “There were 146 modules that were trucked into site, stacked in place with a crane," said Ovsenek. "Once they were on site and in place, we could do the electrical, plumbing, put the roofs on them.”

Summer 2016 was critical to the mine’s success. The goal was to complete the exterior of the mill and camp, so they could maintain productivity indoors throughout the following winter. “You have a window and you have to make the most of it,” said Ovsenek.

Through winter 2016, Pretium focused its attention on fitting out the inside of the mill building. Projects included more foundation work and internal steel as well as bringing in equipment and electrical and plumbing infrastructure.

Now, the Brucejack mine is in commission, moments away from production. “We are bringing the last piece of equipment online,” Ovsenek said. “We will be producing concentrate anytime.”

Considerations

A mine project of Brucejack’s size will benefit the local economy of northwestern British Columbia, with a minimal impact on the environment. “On the economic front, we have a priority to hire locally from the Northwest,” said Ovsenek. “We’ve done our best to do that where we can. Where we can’t, we will be training people over time.”

As an underground mine project, Brucejack’s environmental footprint is “fairly benign,” Ovsenek said, and the Pretivm environmental crew “works hard every day” to ensure construction is following the guidelines.

“We have a good team here,” said Ovsenek. “Everyone worked hard and worked together, so we were successful in getting things going.”

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