OROVILLE – After nearly 20 years in the making, the Buckhorn Mountain Project, the state’s first new large-scale gold mine to open in over a decade, held a grand opening ceremony at the mine site last Thursday, Oct. 9.
In addition to local dignitaries, the ceremony was attended by top officials from Toronto-based Kinross Gold, as well as some of the state and federal legislators that were instrumental in helping the project finally become a reality.
“It was your undying support and unwavering belief in the benefits of the mine for Eastern Washington that helped us get to this point,” said Project Manager Lauren Roberts, who asked Washington State Sen. Bob Morton and State Rep. Joel Kretz to stand up and be recognized.
U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris was also recognized for her help, both in the U.S. House and during her time as a state legislator before that.
“She has always had a deep understanding of natural resource issues, she is a descendent of pioneers, born and raised on a farm and we are extremely fortunate to have a representative that understands our industry,” he said.
“This is the best looking mine and also the most environmentally friendly in the country,” said Bob Taylor, Vice President of Kinross Gold USA.
Tye Burt, Chief Executive Officer for Kinross said the Buckhorn Mountain Project was the third mine his company had opened this year.
“Kinross is the fastest growing mining company of its scale in the industry today.” he said.
“With the Buckhorn Mountain project we have a mine that is fully protective of the area. Lots of folks thought it would never happen,” he said. “The mine has a small footprint and it is optimized to operate while working with the community. We have larger mines, but we certainly don’t have a nicer one.”
He went on to say that his company puts people first and emphasizes corporate citizenship.
Burt said the mine will create 180 jobs between the mine site on Buckhorn Mountain and the Kettle River Mill at Republic.
“We will have a 13 to 14 million dollar payroll and in addition we will spend approximately $5 million in the area,” he said.
He went on to congratulate Roberts and his team for their work on getting the project going.
The grand opening took place approximately six months after Kinross reached a settlement agreement with the Okanogan Highlands Alliance (OHA), an environmental group that opposed a previous proposal by another company to build an open pit mine. OHA was instrumental in stopping Kinross’ predecessor’s plans and it looked like they were ready to fight the new proposal until they reached an agreement over environmental protections.
“OHA still has many concerns regarding the mine. You can’t develop a large industrial facility on top of a mountain and not have problems.” said David Kliegman, OHA’s Executive Director. Kleigman was on hand for the grand opening and recommended people look at the company’s state-of-the-art water treatment system.
“How the company deals with problems is what will make a difference,” he said. “So far the company has been responsive to OHA’s concerns and addressed problems as they have risen. We are hopeful that the company will maintain the highest standards to protect the environment. OHA will continue to keep a close eye on this mine’s operations for a very long time.”
Work has already begun on the mine with an upper and lower portal being cut into the 5,600 foot mountain. In addition to the sophisticated water treatment system, which also treats all storm water on the mine’s 40 acre site, the project includes its own concrete plant for shoring up walls and facilities for the miners. All are housed in green corrugated steel buildings.
Those in attendance were invited to go on a guided tour of the lower tunnel and got a chance to see a two boomed jumbo digging machine, as well as bolting setter used to shore up the tunnel walls and ceiling.
Gold is currently selling for about $900 an ounce and the mine is expected to produce 1 million ounces of gold in about eight years. Approximately 1000 tons of ore a day will be hauled 30 miles by truck to the mill at Republic for processing.