Company seeks approval for gold, copper mining at Toroparu

A mining company is proposing a gold and copper mine at Toroparu along the Upper Puruni River and has applied to the Environmental Protec-tion Agency (EPA) for the necessary approval.

ETK Incorporated has several Prospecting Licenses (PLs) in addition to several Mining Permits (MPs) in the vicinity of the upper reaches of the Puruni River. The company also has rights to several medium scale Prospecting Permits (PPMs) bordering the area of the PLs and MPs at Toroparu. The combined area of the PLs, PMs and PPMs straddle the Puruni River and extends for approximately 25 miles along both banks of the river and also extends inwards from the bank of the river for distances ranging from approximately 10 to upwards of 15 miles. The MPs occupies a total area of approximately 13 250 acres while the total area of all PLs, MPs and PPMs is approximately 242,690 acres.

The company, now a wholly owned subsidiary of Canadian mining company, Sandspring Resources Ltd, said that it plans to produce gold and copper from the Toroparu Mine in accordance with regulations of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC). The project will entail the development and operation of the mine site, upgrade of an existing access road, construction of an off-site concentrate treatment facility, and a barge and ship loading facility.

The EPA, in a notice in last Saturday’s edition of the Guyana Chronicle advised that there will be a public scoping meeting on the project on December 13 at the Region Seven, Regional Democratic Boardroom in Bartica at 1 pm. It invited the public to express their concerns or make suggestions that should be covered by the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA).

According to a summary of the proposed project, historic exploration data and mining has proven the existence of commercially viable gold and copper deposits. Current feasibility and metetallurgical testwork on the Toroparu deposits postulates mine production rates ranging from 3.5 million tonnes of ore per year in the initial phase of operation to 20 million tonnes per year at peak production levels, it says. “The quantity of gold and copper recoverable from the property has convinced ETK to commence the process of consolidating and converting the PLs, PPMs and the MPs to a mining licence and to commence with the development of an open pit mine at the site”.

ETK will require a Mining Permit to develop and operate the Mine. The GGMC will only issue a Mining Permit after submission of a feasibility study and ESIA for the proposed operation. The ESIA must conform to EPA guidelines.

The summary says that the development and operation of the mine will involve construction and operation of the mine site itself, upgrade of an existing access road and other facilities currently at the site, construction of a barge and ship loading facility and construction of an off-site concentrate treatment facility. Power for the operation will be provided by fossil fuel-fired generators. Green energy sources such as solar panels will be considered for utilization at monitoring and communications equipment locations, it says. Gold and copper will be recovered from the open pit to be developed at the site.

Construction works to be undertaken prior to the commencement of mining operation will include improvement of the existing site access road, brushing and grubbing of areas for process plant and other site facilities, increasing the fuel and lubricant storage capacities, construction of workshops and offices, construction of medical facilities, improvements to the communications system, construction of materials storage areas, closing of existing airstrip and construction of new airstrip, installation of sewer, water and power for the construction phase, construction of worker accommodations, kitchen, office and boardwalk and construction of buildings and shelters for repair and maintenance, power generators, water pumps. The processing plant would also be constructed prior to commencement of mining activities.

Different processing methods, including gravity concentration and cyanide leaching process will be used to recover gold. Flotation would be used to recover most of the copper and a significant portion of the gold into a flotation concentrate. That concentrate would be shipped to an offsite smelter for final processing.

A port facility will be established to handle general cargo and service the project. The facility will be used as a transfer point for materials in transit to and from the Toroparu mine. Materials will be delivered to the port by barges and small and mid-sized ocean-going vessels and transported on-site by trucks.
An overview of the anticipated environmental impacts says the project will result in a change in vegetation cover over a small area of the site. Dust emissions will be produced during the mining operation by vehicles using site roads and from overburden stockpiles onsite. Water will be sprinkled on all site roads and spoil piles to control dust emissions.

Meantime, groundwater flow gradients will be altered during open pit mining. There is also a likelihood of increased surface runoff due to removal of vegetation for ore recovery. Detention ponds and sediment control structures will be constructed to restrict sediment discharge from the site.

The installation of facilities and other construction works will form temporary barriers to the movement of animals. Species population may decrease due to hunting and trapping. No hunting will be allowed by company personnel for recreational purposes. The project will alter the existing composition of flora and fauna in the area. It may also result in some temporary changes in the surface water flow regime in the area, the summary says.

It notes that the creation of the tailing pond may favor the multiplication of waterborne disease vectors such as flies, mosquitoes and other parasites and the introduction of new ones. The access roads may result in the easy spread of diseases.

According to the summary, the company will operate on a basis in which its workforce increases on a continual basis rather than have surges in employment followed by layoffs as each phase is completed. Thus, the company will be able to offer steady (rather than intermittent) employment. Wages will be maintained at the local level. Contribution to the national economy will be by payment of royalties and taxes.

Landscape impacts would result from the clearing of vegetation and the disturbance of soil and surficial material during the construction and operation of the mine. There will be some loss of the existing landscape elements and character within the area, the summary concludes.

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