The NICO cobalt-gold-bismuth-copper project is a high-grade metal project located in the Northwest Territories of Canada. Fortune Minerals is developing the project with an estimated investment of C$589m ($445.6m).

The NICO mine is expected to process ore at a throughput capacity of 1.7 million tons per year (Mtpa), through its estimated mine life of 20 years. It is expected to create 300 construction jobs and more than 200 operational jobs.

Front-end engineering design (FEED) study of the project was completed in 2012, while feasibility study (FS) was completed in 2014.

Construction of the project is expected to be commenced in 2019, with commercial production scheduled for early-2020.

NICO cobalt-gold-bismuth-copper project location, geology, and mineralization

The NICO multi-metal project is located approximately 160km from the City of Yellowknife and 85km north of Behchoko.

The project area is located within iron and potassium-altered, brecciated basement sedimentary rocks of the Treasure Island Group.

The deposit hosts iron oxide copper gold (IOCG)-type ore, which is hosted in three stratabound lenses of breccia up to 1.3km-long and 70m-thick. It hosts cobaltian arsenopyrite, cobaltite, bismuthinite, chalcopyrite, pyrite, and pyrrhotite.

Mineralization at the project is found in the biotite-amphibole magnetite schist (BAMS) belonging to the Treasure Island Group. It consists of subarkosic wacke, arenite, siltstone, and carbonate and is covered by a group of rhyolite to rhyodacite tuffs, flows, and volcaniclastics of the Faber Group.

NICO cobalt-gold-bismuth-copper project reserves

The total proven and probable minerals reserves at the NICO project are estimated to be 33 million tons (Mt), grading 1.03% gold, 0.11% cobalt, 0.14% bismuth, and 0.04% copper. The mine is estimated to contain 1.1 million ounces (Moz) of gold, 82 million pounds (Mlbs) of cobalt, 102Mlbs of bismuth, and 27Mlbs of copper.

Mining at NICO project

Conventional open-pit mining, along with trackless underground mining method in the initial years, will be used at the NICO project. Open-pit mining method will be continued throughout the productive mine life of approximately 20 years.

The mining fleet will consist of six Caterpillar 777 and 740 haul trucks, two Sandvik D25KS blasthole drilling rigs, two 330 and 374 excavators, a Caterpillar 6018 hydraulic shovel, and a D10 Bulldozer.

Ore processing at NICO cobalt-gold-bismuth-copper project

 Run-of-mine (ROM) ore will be crushed in a primary crusher, followed by secondary and tertiary crushing. It will be transported by road and rail to the Saskatchewan metals processing plant, which is yet to be constructed.

Fine ore will be grinded to 55um in a ball mill operating in closed-circuit along with a cluster of cyclones. The cyclone overflow from the ball mill will be fed to the secondary grinding circuit, while most the underflow will be returned to the ball mill.

The remaining underflow will be fed to the gold gravity recovery circuit, comprising a scalping screen with a screen deck and a gravity concentrator to separate and concentrate fine materials with a high specific gravity.

Heavy minerals, including gold, will be collected and pumped to the final concentrate thickener for dewatering and packaging with the flotation concentrates. 

Ground ore passes through bulk flotation circuit to concentrate sulphide minerals in a bulk rougher concentrate. The bulk concentrate will be ground again to 14µm and subject to secondary flotation to produce separate cobalt & bismuth concentrates.

Bismuth concentrate will be filtered and packed in bags, while cobalt roast residue will be bagged and transported by trucks to Hay River. It will be then transferred to CN Rail for delivery to either port or third party processor. 

NICO cobalt-gold-bismuth-copper project infrastructure

The project site can be accessed by charter float plane or helicopter from Yellowknife during summer. During the winter season, the NICO project will either be accessed by charter aircraft or through a 95km winter road from Behchoko.

The Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) is building the all-weather Tlicho access road connecting the project with Whati and Behchoko. North Star Infrastructure GP was engaged to construct the all-season road, which will facilitate the transportation of final products from the NICO project.

Power supply will be sourced from the Snare hydroelectric plant, while water will be collected from the Lou Lake.

Workers will be accommodated at a 300-person camp, which will be converted to accommodate 150 permanent staff.

Contractors involved

Micon International prepared the FS of the NICO project, with support from engineering companies such as Hatch Associates (Hatch), P&E Mining Consultants, Golder Associates, Jacobs Minerals Canada, Aker Solutions, and Jenike and Johanson.