Columbus Gold says French Guiana project safe with new Paris mining delegate

Camp at Montagne d’Or gold project in northwestern French Guiana. (Image courtesy of Columbus Gold.)

Canada’s Columbus Gold (TSX: CGT) said on Tuesday that the future of its French Guiana Montagne d’Or gold project, a joint venture with Russia’s Nordgold, looks positive, as Paris has appointed a mining veteran to lead the sector and coordinate projects in France’s South America department.

Didier Le Moine, a mining engineer that helped build a nickel industry in the French overseas territory of New Caledonia, was appointed in late September to define, coordinate and implement actions for the development of a responsible mining industry in French Guiana, compatible with France’s ecological ambitions.

“French Guiana is endowed with mineral‑rich and prospective geology and the territory should benefit from the responsible development of these resources.” Columbus’ President and chief executive Rock Lefrançois said.

Mining engineer Didier Le Moine helped build a nickel industry in the French overseas territory of New Caledonia and is expected to do the same with Guiana’s gold sector

The Vancouver-based company’s Montagne d’Or gold project was originally planned over an 800-hectare site between two protected natural reserves.

But after complaints from opponents to the mine, worried mainly about pollution and biodiversity loss, the French government formed a special committee to evaluate in detail the social and economic benefits, as well as the impacts of a gold mining industry in the French department, wedged between Brazil and Suriname.

By the end of last year, Paris decided the partners could move forward with permitting and development of the mine, but under certain conditions that would minimize the operation’s risks and impacts.

While 90% of French Guiana is covered by rainforest, mining is the department’s second largest industry, mainly driven by artisanal miners who have dug its gold-rich soil for more than 150 years.

Paris has constantly deployed soldiers to the territory in an effort to curb the activity, which is causing damage to nearby forests, waterways and communities.

According to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), miners use an average of 1.3 kilograms of mercury to extract each kilogram of gold. The group has called illegal mining the region’s “main social, health and environmental scourge.”

With the arrival of an increasing number of international companies and strong gold prices, Guiana’s mining industry could become a key player in the region.

“The territory can [now] envision a new dynamic to implement a mining industry that is environmentally responsible, technically sound, economically efficient, socially integrated, respectful of working conditions and will be able to contribute to the development of the Guyanese population,” Columbus said.

The Montagne d’Or deposit has an estimated 3.85 million ounces of gold in 85.1 million measured and indicated tonnes grading 1.41 grams gold per tonne, and another 960,000 ounces gold contained within 20.2 million inferred tonnes grading 1.48 grams gold.

Based on the bankable feasibility study of 2017, the open-pit mine would produce 214,000 ounces of gold per year at total cash costs of $666 per ounce.

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