NorZinc (TSX: NZC; OTC: NORZF) has begun preparation work for construction of the Pioneer winter road (PWR) at its Prairie Creek project located in the Dehcho region of the Northwest Territories. The PWR constitutes Phase 1 of the 170 km all-season road (ASR) that will act as the main point of access, connecting Prairie Creek to the Liard Highway 7.
Subject to financing, NorZinc plans to start construction on the PWR (and the overall ASR construction) mid-October. Initial construction activities will focus on two headings: 1) from the Prairie Creek mine through the mountains to Cat Camp at 40 km, and 2) from the northside of the Liard River, whereby the crews will construct a wildlife clearing trail whose aim is to safely pre-clear wildlife from the area. Both headings are planned to be complete by the end of the year.
Ice bridge construction is expected to commence at the beginning of December, with the main construction crews having access over the bridge to complete the connection to Cat Camp in the first quarter of 2023. This first phase of construction will also re-open and cut new trails, where designated, along the access road corridor. This work will allow for acquisition of critical geotechnical data for subsequent road-building campaigns, permitting and to transport key pieces of heavy equipment required for on-site early construction projects in the following summer.
"The start of the winter road work at Prairie Creek is a significant turning point for the company as it signifies the start the overall construction of the project and the beginning of the transition into the development phase," stated Rohan Hazelton, president and CEO of NorZinc.
"The preparation work of the PWR is key to remaining on track with our targeted road construction schedule and production expected in late 2025. This initial work keeps the project progressing while we await the final management plan approvals for full construction of the PWR," Hazelton added.
The Prairie Creek property is home to what is regarded as one of Canada's next large high-grade zinc, lead and silver mines. A 2021 preliminary economic assessment for the project envisioned a 20-year mine with average annual payable production of 122 million lb. of zinc, 101 million lb. of lead and 2.6 million oz. of silver. It has an after-tax net present value (at 8% discount) of US$299 million and internal rate of return of 17.7%, with a payback period of 4.8 years.
Construction of the winter road to the Prairie Creek project was originally slated to begin in January 2022, but unexpected regulatory requirements subsequently delayed the construction work and the production schedule. Following the receipt of its land use permit for mining, NorZinc said it is confident that the work it has been doing with the regulatory bodies will be reflected accordingly with respect to timing of the final permits for construction of the PWR.
The construction of the PWR from the proposed mine site to Cat Camp will be spearheaded with a new CAT 315 excavator and skid-steer, both of which were recently flown in. They will be augmented by the bulldozer and rock trucks already onsite as the company aims to complete the mountainous sections of the PWR by the end of the year.
To assist the PWR construction activities, additional rip-rap will be developed from the onsite quarry. NorZinc has received all necessary permits to store explosives onsite including the federal registration for the magazines and the permit from Workers' Safety and Compensation Commission. This is in addition to the quarry permit required in the NWT. The company anticipates commencement of blasting to develop the rip-rap stockpile in early October.
To complete the wildlife clearing trail, an excavator and skid-steer were successfully barged over to the north side of the Liard River earlier this month. It is anticipated that NorZinc will start wildlife clearing late in October dependent on weather conditions.
To learn more about the progress of the Prairie Creek project, visit www.NorZinc.com.