Chris ZahovskisThe Sisson Partnership
Not many people can rely on the promise of a high-paying, 27-year career.
But for a lucky few hundred, they could be only travel roughly 100 km Northwest of Fredericton, near Napadogan, Juniper, and Stanley, New Brunswick to a site with the potential to hold a world-class mine.
“It will represent a significant natural resource mine development in New Brunswick that it hasn’t seen for a long time,” says Chris Zahovskis, “not only from the scale of the operation but on the scale of the investment and employment. I think it will make a significant impact to the province.”
Zahovskis is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Sisson Partnership, a jointly owned venture by Vancouver, British Columbia’s Northcliff Resource Ltd. and New Zealand’s Todd Minerals Ltd.
Through the Sisson Project, Zahovskis and his team propose to develop a tungsten and molybdenum mine in central New Brunswick. While roughly a quarter of the deposit is molybdenum, used as an alloy in the steel and construction industry, it mainly consists of tungsten. Sixty to seventy per cent of the world’s tungsten is used in making hard metals for products like industrial machinery and cutting tools. It’s also used in electronics, jewelry, the medical industry and for munitions.
“Tungsten has the highest melting point and boiling point of all metals,” he says. “If you can imagine any kind of operation or application that requires high-speed drilling and high impact that generates heat, there is no equal to it. In fact, tungsten is not substitutable.”
According to Zahovskis, a junior mining company called Geodex identified the tungsten and molybdenum after drilling about 45,000 meters of core samples between 2004 and 2009. They conducted a preliminary economic assessment, and the resource met the Standards of Disclosure for Mineral Projects (43-101).
While admitting they came to New Brunswick through chance as a result of working in the same building as Geodex in Vancouver, Zahovskis says as miners, they knew New Brunswick had a good reputation for mining.
“We know that New Brunswick has a long history of mining,” Zahovskis says, using Brunswick #12, a lead, zinc and copper mine as an example. “At one time it was ranked in the top 10 of all lead/zinc mines in the world.”
The Sisson Project represents a $579 million capital investment for the province. Aside from the 500 jobs it will create during construction, the operation of the 27-year mine will create 300 high-paying jobs -along with a number of indirect jobs for New Brunswickers.
“To support a full mining operation, you need a variety of skills from technicians to surveyors to engineers to metallurgists and chemists,” Zahovskis says. “We need to analyze the quality of the ore on a daily basis that we mine in the mill. That is a complicated chemical, laboratory-type process. So we need people that are schooled in variety of disciplines.”
The Sisson Project’s Community Relations Manager Greg Davidson, adds it will create additional jobs like trucking goods, snow removal, security and a multitude of other services. He also recounts a conversation he had with a young carpenter at a career information session in Juniper, New Brunswick. Davidson details his response to the carpenter, who was concerned about lack of opportunities after completing mine construction.
“If 30 people in Juniper all of a sudden have a good paying job , at a project with a 27 year mine life, the reluctance they might have right now to go to the bank to borrow money to build or renovate their home is now gone,” Davidson recalls explaining to the carpenter. “Now they have a job. This is where you benefit.’”
Davidson says the response from organizations and academic institutions - such has the University of New Brunswick, New Brunswick Community College and the Joint Economic Development Initiative has been significant..
Currently, there are 47 NBCC and Collège communautaire du Nouveau-Brunswick (CCNB) archaeological program graduates who are ready and want to work. Similarly, JEDI trained over 500 Aboriginal learners under the New Brunswick Aboriginal Mining, Energy and Trades project over the last three years.
From a drilling program in summer 2011 to support engineering studies to offering students scholarships, Davidson says the Sisson Partnership has provided on-the-job training, and meaningful employment during this stage of development.
“One of the engineering students who received a Sisson Partnership Scholarship was able to land a fulltime job in the natural resources field in Calgary. She graduated with her engineering degree,” says Davidson. “There’s a real role to play in that, and we’ve been strong advocates of education and training.” “There has to be a place for those students to go,” he adds.
More than 800 people have expressed interest in employment opportunities at the project, many of whom are currently working in Alberta, and see this opportunity as a chance to come home. Despite concerns that the project will only benefit trained people, Zahovskis says it will in fact draw from a wide demographic to include untrained people too. Sisson will have extensive on-the-job training to meet the Company’s needs.
But despite these much-needed economic benefits, there are concerns from the public about the environmental impact on water and fish most commonly, according to Zahovskis. The project received its environmental assessment impact approval from the Province in December 2015, but is still awaiting a decision under the Federal environmental assessment process. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) took Sisson’s 3,000-page environmental impact assessment report along with the roughly 1,300 information requests and compiled the comprehensive study report (CSR), which was released to the public in April 2016.
In a news release following receiving the provincial EIA approval Zahovskis expressed his appreciation to the Government of New Brunswick for their support shown to the project. He stated “The rigorous environmental assessment process has resulted in a strong project that will deliver significant benefits to New Brunswick while protecting the environment. We recognize the importance residents and First Nations place on the protection of the land, water, heritage and natural resources of New Brunswick, and we are committed to advancing the Sisson Project in a manner that respects these elements.”
“I think New Brunswick by virtue of its experience and history in the mining space is very well placed to tackle another significant mining project,” Zahovskis says.
After five years, more than $50 million has been invested to date, the project is shovel ready, people are skilled up for work, and the Region is eager to benefit from the significant economic spin-offs the mine will generate. With a comprehensive environmental impact assessment completed and submitted in July 2013, the Region now anxiously awaits the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency’s decision.
Learn more at The Sisson Partnership