As many as 50 jobs could be affected now that TerraX Minerals Inc. calls off its winter drilling program, according to an advisor to the company.
“Without a water licence TerraX has cancelled its winter drilling program,” said David Connelly, strategic and community engagement advisor to TerraX, in a statement to Yellowknifer.
“Based on past years the number of people required to run a winter drilling program is about 50. This includes direct contractors and direct employees.”
Connelly said the large-scale winter drilling program has been cancelled because the public review stage of the water licence, due to concerns raised but then withdrawn by the federal government, will last until Feb. 22, leaving too short a season to build a winter road through TerraX’s properties.
He said the effect will be felt throughout the area, as this project has been a constant for the past five winters.
“A typical drill program is $5-million-plus. The drill sites planned for a winter drilling program are generally not easily accessible in the summer, thus gathering information from those priority drill targets is likely delayed a year,” stated Connelly.
“Over 80 per cent of the money spent on drilling programs are Northern purchases in Yellowknife, Dettah and Ndilo that now will not happen.”
There could be a silver lining to the delay for TerraX, though, according to Dave White, president of Aurora Geosciences.
Last month, TerraX announced it had recovered 16,000 metres of historic drill core, in co-operation with The Geological Survey of the NWT and The Giant Mine Remediation Project.
White says TerraX, in assaying this and further defining its gold stores in this way, could maintain some momentum.
“They’re still moving in the right direction and the core that they’re going to examine will just allow them to more effectively spend (what was to be) their winter budget this year perhaps in the summer,” says White.
Aurora Geosciences is sometimes hired on to do small-scale, targeted contracts for TerraX but White says it did not have contracts for this winter’s season.
The company applied for a water licence on Nov. 30 to cover exploration throughout its territory, which has expanded to 783 square km of continuous claims, close to 10 km from Yellowknife, from 440 square km at the beginning of 2018.
On Dec. 27, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans raised concerns that TerraX’s application did not specify exactly how much water it would draw, nor did it specify the particular sources.
In response, TerraX executive chairman Joe Campbell wrote a letter explaining how much it would likely use – 30,000 cubic metres per year out of the allowable 110,000, and within daily usage constraints.
Campbell also wrote that it would be hard to set out when and where the water would be used given the nature of exploration, in which the activity follows the finds. He wrote the company could let an inspector know their desired source prior to drilling at a spot.
The department withdrew its concerns after correspondence with TerraX along these lines, but the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board revised the conditions of the water licence to codify some of this correspondence, then sent it to a public review that will end on Feb. 22. Depending on the outcome of the review, the licence could be issued within several weeks of that.
Other than providing some context for TerraX’s licence application, Campbell did not wish to comment on the current licensing process while it is ongoing.
Yellowknifer did not hear back on a request for further information from the MVLWB by press time.