The owner of the Niblack mining project on Prince of Wales Island continues to explore the possibility of a minerals processing plant on Gravina Island near Ketchikan.
The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority and Heatherdale Resources, LTD on Tuesday announced a memorandum of understanding for evaluation of a mill and tailings facility at the Gravina Island Industrial Complex.
AIDEA is a state-owned corporation set up to advance economic development in Alaska. Spokesman Karsten Rodvik says the agreement will help it investigate financing options in support of the Niblack project.
“Part of the feasibility that they are doing, of course, is to determine whether or not they would be able to process materials in-state or if they would have to process them out-of-state,” Rodvik said. “That’s where we come in. We look at the Gravina Island Industrial Complex site as a potential site for Niblack to process the materials.”
Financing could be key for moving the project beyond the exploration phase and into permitting. Niblack Project Manager Graham Neale told an audience at the recent annual meeting of Southeast Conference that Heatherdale has had trouble attracting enough investors.
“As an exploration company we are at the whim of the financial markets and the only way we can raise money is by investor dollars,” Neale said. “And for whatever reason over the last couple years, I’m sure people’s portfolios have noticed, that investment dollars have kind of dried up and they are just getting harder to come by. So, in 2013 unfortunately we couldn’t raise the capital that we needed to pull off a program.”
The Canadian company has long expressed interest in the Gravina Island site for a minerals processing plant. Last year, it agreed to a memorandum of understanding with the Ketchikan Gateway Borough, which owns the industrial complex land.
If developed, it’s estimated Niblack would create up to 230 full time jobs at both the mine site and the processing plant.
Heatherdale is the sole owner of the copper, gold, zinc and silver prospect located about 30 miles southwest of Ketchikan. Geologists say Niblack’s mineral deposits are similar to the Greens Creek Mine near Juneau.