Fortune Minerals gets conditional environmental approval for Saskatchewan processing plant

Fortune Minerals jumped nearly 18% to trade at 43 cents per share on the Toronto exchange on Tuesday after announcing that it had secured environmental approval for its metals processing plant in Saskatchewan.

With the Ministry of Environment having given the green light for the $200 million metals processing facility – subject to conditions – Fortune can now apply for the required construction and operation permits.

"As a condition of approval, the project will be subject to stringent ongoing monitoring and reporting from construction through operation, decommissioning and reclamation activities," the Ministry wrote.

The Saskatchewan Metals Processing Plant (SMPP), located about 30km from Saskatoon and adjacent to the Canadian National Railway, will process about 65,000 tonnes of ore into gold, bismuth, cobalt and copper products per year.

Fortune's planned NICO mine in the Northwest Territories will feed the Saskatchewan refinery, along with other custom processing orders. The company also sees potential in the metals recycling business through SMPP. 

Together, the NICO mine and the processing plant will "be an important vertically integrated and reliable Canadian source of cobalt and bismuth metals and chemicals with a highly liquid gold co-product, and copper," the company wrote in a news release on Tuesday.

Fortune considers the Saskatchewan location ideal due to lower electricity costs and the mining-friendly provincial government which, according to Fortune, has passed "attractive tax legislation to encourage processing of raw materials that have been sourced from outside the province."

It's estimated that the processing facility will add about 200 jobs during construction and 100 long-term positions.

But some residents of a town located 2.5km away from the planned facility have said the plant would threaten the area's water supply and blow toxic dust onto nearby farmland, Global News reported in December. 

The Saskatchewan Environmental Society lobbied the provincial government to not grant approval saying that "there are so many unanswered questions and potential hazards associated with the project."

Fortune says it has mitigated the risks of arsenic-laced waste making its way into the region's main aquifer, which sits directly below the land on which the plant will be built.

The Saskatchewan government says that during the environmental assessment, which included a 60-day public review period, the proposal was found to be "both environmentally and technically sound, providing both environmental safeguards and outlining company plans to ensure Saskatchewan’s air, water and natural resources are protected throughout the duration of the project and after."