The Treasure Mountain silver operation should employ dozens of workers, including many from the Nicola Valley, once it is in full production next year, according to the company behind it.
Huldra Silver Inc. president and CEO Ryan Sharp addressed locals and gave an overview of the company's plans at a Business after Business reception hosted by Community Futures Nicola Valley Thursday evening.
According to Sharp, Huldra is already processing ore from its Treasure Mountain claim and expects to be in full production by the first quarter of 2012.
"Right now, we are mining up at Treasure Mountain actively.
"We've been underground for about two and a half months."
During that time, Huldra has installed mining infrastructure between the surface and about 60 metres underground and stockpiled the ore excavated while building tunnels, drifts and raises, about 11,000 tonnes.
Huldra would build new levels deep underground as it continues to yield silver from the current vein, which runs hundreds of metres deep.
Sharp clarified that only open-pit mining is in progress now, while technical mining, that is, drawing ore underground, is expected to begin next week.
Heavy milling equipment will arrive from China at the beginning of November, after which Huldra can derive silver from ore in earnest, Sharp said. The mill will be able to handle up to 200 tonnes of ore a day.
Sharp said once full production is underway, there will be 60 to 70 employees working on the project, divided among onsite miners, mill workers drawing silver from the ore, and truckers moving ore from the mine to the refinery.
"Most of our support staff are from Merritt.
"The mill's going to be all local."
Sharp said there are currently 48 miners stationed at Treasure Mountain.
Treasure Mountain is located about 29 kilometres northeast of Hope. The mill equipment will be kept at the former Craigmont mines mill site.
The City of Merritt's business and economic development manager, James Umpherson, agrees that Merritt will benefit despite the mine's relatively isolated location.
"Any kind of development, whether it's inside or outside of the city, is good for Merritt.
"They're going to use Merritt as a source for either people or services or resources."
Sharp told the audience that Huldra's target production is two million troy ounces of silver a year. The mine, as it stands, is expected to yield 10-million troy ounces throughout its life.
However, Sharp added that he expects to produce silver from many other veins on Treasure Mountain in years to come.
"We're expecting the mill to be running for the next 15 to 20 years at 200 tonnes a day.
"Hopefully this mine is running long after I'm gone.
"I have an idea in my head how much silver is there, but under the disclosure rules, we have to prove it."
In addition to silver, Huldra expects to draw some lead and zinc from its mining activities as well.
Asked by Community Futures Nicola Valley general manager Robert Miller how silver prices will affect the Treasure Mountain operation, Sharp said the mine could operate at market prices of $8 to $10 per troy ounce.
"I took over the company at $13. We were hoping for $18 to $20."