Tk'emlups First Nation and KGHM Ajax are finalizing an agreement to clear the way for a cultural heritage study of the 2,500-hectare site of the proposed copper/gold mine.
Tk'emlups Chief Shane Gottfriedson said Friday that recent talks between the band and the proponent have set the stage for an agreement-in-principle.
"It took Ajax a couple of years to realize that the mine wasn't going to go ahead unless we had a cultural heritage study," he said.
The study would be completed over the next 12 months and will be paid for by the company.
"We felt it was a necessary step as well for the project because of the culturally significant area that it's in," said Gottfriedson.
The low-elevation grasslands were a traditional hunting area for the Secwepemc, so the study will encompass not only the archeological record but existing wildlife populations as well. An old hunting blind, a stone slab, is located in the middle of the proposed mine site.
"It's a pretty unique and cool spot where people used to hunt."
The band plans to hire its own people to conduct the study, expected to cost in the range of $450,000.
"Who better to do the study than ourselves?"
Gottfriedson said the study represents the first step in enabling the band to form a perspective on the proposed mine.
"We'll look at the cultural heritage study as the first step and make an assessment around the project from there."
Meanwhile, KGHM International and junior partner Abacus Mining and Exploration have announced senior management changes that result from KGHM assuming an 80 per cent ownership of KGHM Ajax. In April, the Polish company exercised its option in a joint venture agreement to increase its stake. Abacus retains a 20 per cent share.
As of Sept. 1, KGHM International becomes the operator of the project. Each partner selected an appointee for the restructured board. Jim Excell, currently CEO of Abacus, becomes chief financial officer. Mark Blakely, chief project officer of KGHM International, becomes chief operating officer.
Excell noted that KGHM has offered assurance that the Ajax project remains integral to the company's growth strategy.
"In addition, KGHM International brings a level of expertise that can advance Ajax along the critical path to production," Excell said in a news release.