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Mining the Northwest: Mine builder aims for early 2023 construction start of Marathon palladium mine

Generation Mining executive says 'tough' environmental questioning will make for a better pit project
Gen Mining drill core 1
(Generation Mining photo)

Construction of an open-pit palladium and copper mine project near Marathon appears to be a year away from groundbreaking. 

Drew Anwyll, chief operating officer for Generation Mining, delivered a webcall update on May 20 as the Toronto company navigates its way through a federal and provincial environmental assessment (EA) on its project, 10 kilometres north of the town of Marathon and not far from the north shore of Lake Superior.

Anwyll spelled out the EA process timelines as the public hearing portion recently wrapped up. The company is going through the preparatory steps to get the project financing in place and the paperwork in order for the permitting. 

Final approval for the mine project must come from both the federal and provincial environment ministers before construction can begin. If all goes well, construction will start in early 2023 with commercial production 20 to 24 months after that.  

The development promises to deliver more than 1,000 construction jobs and 400 permanent mining jobs over a projected 13-year mine life. Annual production will be 245,000 ounces of palladium.

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The EA panel hearings, which began in mid-March, involved the company explaining the key element of the project in answering questions and concerns, and hearing support from area communities, residents and Indigenous people, environmental groups, and government agencies.

Anwyll mentioned the company fielded its fair share of “tough questions” in explaining their plans submitted in its environmental impact statement filed in early 2021.

“But the tough questions that we do get through the panel allow us to make it a better project and make sure all those concerns are addressed,” he said. 

The federal-provincial panel for the Marathon project was established in 2011 when it was owned by Stillwater Canada. The process was placed on hold in 2014 when the company placed the project on the backburner. The EA was revived when Gen Mining acquired the project in 2019 and made moves to put it into production.

With the public hearing portion now closed, the independent three-member panel has 90 days to write its report and make recommendations to the respective federal and provincial environment ministers for review.

Anwyll said approval for the mine project could come as early as the end of October or by mid-December at the latest. Then, there would be a dash by the company over a two- to three-month period to obtain and update the necessary permits to get ready for construction.

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Among the key permits still to be acquired are the provincial mine closure plan and other permits related to cutting trees and species at risk, concerning caribou habitat on the north shore of Superior.

The mine project and the company’s exploration grounds cover 220 square kilometres and sit on the traditional territory of Biigtigong Nishnaabeg (Pic River).

Gen Mining has signed an agreement-in-principle with the community, which maps out the framework for future community benefit agreement, and a memorandum of agreement, which defines how the relationship will work with some set-aside contracting work for local businesses.

Anwyll describes the company’s relationship with Biigtigong Nishnaabeg as “strong,” adding they’ve had many “robust discussions” with the leadership. The community, he said, has a strong and balanced approach when it comes to environmental protectionism and realizing the benefits of development.

The cost to build the open-pit mine is $665 million. With inflation jacking up the cost of mine construction projects near Dubreuilville and Gogama, Anwyll said they’re currently evaluating those impacts in their detailed engineering for the mine and its infrastructure.

“The world is certainly seeing a crazy time and we still have to evaluate what the total impact on the project will be.”