NICO gold/cobalt/bismuth/copper mine project, Canada – update

Location map of the NICO project

Photo by Fortune Minerals

15th December 2023

By: Sheila Barradas

Creamer Media Research Coordinator & Senior Deputy Editor


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Name of the Project
NICO gold/cobalt/bismuth/copper mine project.

About 50 km north of the Tlicho community of Whati and 160 km north-west of Yellowknife, in Canada’s Northwest Territories.

Project Owner/s
Fortune Minerals.

Project Description
The NICO project is a development-stage primary cobalt asset consisting of a planned mine, mill and concentrator, in the Northwest Territories, and a hydrometallurgical refinery, in Saskatchewan, to process concentrates from the mine into cobalt sulphate, gold, bismuth ingot and oxide, as well as a copper precipitate.

The deposit contains openpit and underground proven and probable mineral reserves totalling 33.1-million tonnes containing 1 085 000 oz of gold, 82.3-million pounds of cobalt, 102.1-million pounds of bismuth and 27.2-million pounds of copper.

According to the project’s 2014 feasibility study, the mineral reserves will sustain operations for 21 years at the planned mill throughput rate of 4 650 t/d of ore.

Openpit methods will be used, with underground ores contributing 22% of the mill feed during the second year of operations. The openpit part of the mine will be a conventional truck-and-shovel/loader operation, accomplished in four phases at an average waste-to-ore strip ratio of 3.0:1.

The underground portion of the mine will be mined by a contractor using retreat blasthole open stoping, providing access to gold-rich, higher-grade ores.

The ore will be processed in two stages at the NICO site and Saskatchewan metals processing plant. At the site, an average of 4 650 t/d of ore will be processed in a crushing, grinding and flotation concentrator to produce about 180 t/d of wet bulk concentrate.

Construction of the NICO mine and concentrator is planned using the existing winter ice road, but all-season road access is required for mine operations. The Tlicho road will be a permanent 97 km highway, extending north from Highway 3 to Whatı. Fortune has received environmental assessment approval to build a road from Whatı to the mine site.

Potential Job Creation
Fortune's proposed hydrometallurgical plant will provide employment for 80 to 90 full-time employees, with a payroll of about $9-million a year. Using a typical employment multiplier, this will result in two additional indirect jobs for every employee, creating another 170 jobs in the region.

The contracting opportunities during construction are estimated at $76-million, with operational expenditure of about $25-million a year, totalling about $525-million over the current life-of-mine estimate.

Net Present Value/Internal Rate of Return
According to the 2014 feasibility study, the project has a levered pretax net present value, at a 7% discount rate, of $254-million in the base case, and an internal rate of return of 15.6%.

Capital Expenditure
The 2014 feasibility estimated capital expenditure at C$589-million, including working capital.

Planned Start /End Date
Construction of the NICO project mine and concentrator is expected to take two years after project financing is secured. The refinery construction is expected to take 18 months and will be built concurrently. The project could be commissioned in three years after receipt of the requisite funding.

Latest Developments
The Canadian government has offered funding to support metallurgical testwork for the Nico project, which entails a planned openpit and underground mine in the Northwest Territories, as well as a hydrometallurgical refinery in Alberta.

The proposed Alberta refinery will process concentrates from a future mine at Nico and other sources to produce cobalt sulphate, gold doré, bismuth ingots and copper.

Government has agreed to provide funding contributions of up to C$714 500 against the costs of Fortune’s planned cobalt sulphate process pilot and other metallurgical testwork through the federal government’s Critical Minerals Research, Development and Demonstration Programme.

The government of Alberta, through Alberta Innovates, has also conditionally approved additional funding contributions of up to C$172 670 towards the budgeted programme costs pursuant to its Clean Resources Continuous Intake Programme.

The funds will be used to support a mini-pilot at SGS Canada to confirm certain process design criteria and improvements to the Nico project metallurgical processes.

The programme will also provide samples of concentrate that could be used in future tests, with material sourced under the previously announced Rio Tinto process collaboration.

Key Contracts, Suppliers and Consultants
Hatch, P&E Mining Consultants and Micon International (updated technical report on 2014 feasibility study).

Contact Details for Project Information
Fortune Minerals, tel +1 519 858 8188, fax +1 519 858 8155 or email

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter


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