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The Galore Creek Project is a proposed open pit mine located between the Stikine and Iskut Rivers in northwest B.C., about 70 km/44 miles west of Highway 37. It is one of the world's largest undeveloped copper-gold-silver deposits, owned equally by NovaGold Resources Inc. and Teck Resources Ltd, and managed by the Galore Creek Mining Corporation (GCMC). The project received an Environmental Assessment Certificate and began construction in 2007, but cost estimates more than doubled, and development was suspended in November 2007.
A new pre-feasibility study proposes “a more realistic and lower risk development alternative,” processing 95,000 tonnes per day, over an 18-year mine life. A 12 km tunnel would connect the mine to the proposed new mill site near Round Lake, which would be used as a tailings impoundment. A transmission line connecting the mine site to the Northwest Transmission Line would provide power for the project, while ore concentrate would be trucked down Highway 37 to the port at Stewart, BC. Even with a revised mine plan, the remote location continues to be a challenge for mine construction, currently estimated at $5.2 billion. NovaGold is attempting to sell its 50% share of the project.
The proposed Galore Creek mine could fragment the ecological integrity of the region and is a source of potential contamination to the Iskut-Stikine watershed. The proposed mine would impact the Galore, Scud, Scotsimpson, Sphaler, Porcupine, More and Iskut drainages, all of which flow into the Stikine River, which supports 19 fish species, including all 5 species of Pacific salmon. A new road would extend deep into the mountains between the Iskut and Stikine Rivers, bringing industrial traffic, transmission lines, waste rock dumps and toxic tailings impoundments to a fragile high country terrain populated by grizzly bears, mountain goats and other wildlife.
The proposed mine would generate about 1.3 billion tonnes of waste rock and tailings, with roughly half of that being potentially acid generating. Waste rock would be placed in the Galore Creek valley, raising the threat of acid mine drainage flowing into and polluting the Scud River, an important salmon-bearing tributary of the Stikine River. The revised mine plan relocates the tailings impoundment and mill site to the adjacent West More Valley, but acid mine drainage is still a concern as tailings waste would be dumped into Round Lake, which drains into More Creek and the Iskut River.