A recent drill site at the Palmer Project. (Constantine Metal Resources)

A drill site at the Palmer Project north of Haines. (Photo courtesy of Constantine Metal Resources)

Earlier this month, the Canadian company Constantine Metal Resources announced the appointment of a new vice president of advanced projects. That includes the Palmer Project – mineral exploration in the Chilkat Valley. KHNS’s Abbey Collins checked in with Constantine about transitioning further into advanced exploration and what’s to come.

Constantine is trying to figure out whether a mine is feasible in Haines’ Upper Valley. Exploration of the potential hard rock mine is known as the Palmer Project.

“The question everyone has is, is this going to be a mine?” says Constantine’s Liz Cornejo. “And we’re trying to answer that question of how we would do it and can we do it to meet all the environmental regulations? And what’s expected of us to do it responsibly and can we do it in a manor that’s going to be safe and efficient and also economic?”

Moving from early stage to advanced exploration means,

“Is really the transition from, have you found something significant and is it worth evaluating for feasibility,” says Cornejo. “Is it economic, can you permit it, is it minable, is it doable, what are the economics going to be around it, but also how will it be done, when can it be done? There’s a lot of information to collect to get there.”

Cornejo says there’s still a lot of work to be done before saying it definitely makes sense to move forward with a mine plan.  She says it could be a several years still.

“We’re at the stage where, yeah we found a nice deposit that’s got some high grades,” says Cornejo. “But we haven’t done the real in-depth technical studies that are needed to do the first stage, the early stage economic analysis. The first stage of that is called the preliminary economic assessment. And then, before you would ever go to mining, then you would go to a pre-feasibility study, and a feasibility study. And each of those steps requires a lot of information that’s more and more detailed.”

There are a lot of strong feelings about the Palmer Project in Haines. Many residents are concerned about the impact of a mine on the Chilkat watershed and its salmon populations.

In 2016, the Chilkat Indian Village of Klukwan nominated the Chilkat River for Tier 3, high-level environmental protection. That’s still pending with the state.

And last year, Klukwan and several conservation organizations sued the Bureau of Land Management over permitting for expanded exploration at the Palmer Project.

But others in the community are excited about the economic possibilities of a mine.

Right now, Cornejo says Constantine is continuing to explore, to expand its current deposit and discover new ones.

“Of course, it always depends of exploration success,” says Cornejo. “Because we could drill more drill holes and not find anything more. At that point we would pull back on exploration expenditures. But at this point we’re very confident that there is additional mineralization to be found.”

Cornejo says 2017 was a “great year” for the Palmer Project.

“We made some discoveries, we found some new mineralization in a couple areas, really high-quality stuff,” says Cornejo. “And also got a lot of new environmental data. We had some good conversations with everyone. We’re really excited about the project and the team that we’ve put together.”

She says the appointment of Ian Cunningham-Dunlop to Vice President of Advanced Projects will help take the project to the “next level.”