Midas Gold (TSX: MAX) CEO Stephen Quin on Release of Draft Environmental Impact Statement from US Forest Service on the Stibnite Gold Project in Idaho
Gerardo Del Real: This is Gerardo Del Real with Resource Stock Digest. Joining me today is the CEO of Midas Gold Corp. (TSX: MAX)(OTC: MDRPF), Mr. Stephen Quin. Stephen, how are you?
Stephen Quin: Doing very good. Thank you, Gerardo. Good to talk with some positive news.
Gerardo Del Real: It's extremely positive. Congratulations are in order. We finally got the release of the draft EIS on the Stibnite Gold Project, which I believe is the best unpermitted, with an actual shot of being permitted, project because I think it will be soon. I think Stibnite's the best undeveloped project out there. It's high grade. It's high margin. It's got excellent exploration upside. I could go on. But first off, congratulations. A lot of hard work has gone into this.
Stephen Quin: It certainly has. We started the company almost 10 years ago now. We filed our permit application after several years of defining the project and what needs to be done. We filed our permit application in September 2016, so we're almost four years to the day seeing this draft published. It is a big milestone, because this accumulates and consolidates all of that four years and then the work we did before that four years even started into one big package, and goes out to the public for comment.
Gerardo Del Real: Can you explain to those that are new to the permitting process? We have gold flirting with $2,000 again, as I speak. There's going to be a lot of new speculative capital in the space. We're seeing it already. For those not familiar with how close you are to an actual permit, can you explain the process moving forward?
Stephen Quin: Certainly. So the draft Environmental Impact Statement got published on Friday. That triggered a 60 day public comment period. Public includes everybody, includes us, includes agencies, general citizens of the country can comment on that process. The point of the comments is to help finalize the EIS. So they need to be specific. They need to be focused on a particular item. You can't just say, "I love mining," or, "I hate mining." You have to point out something in particular in the draft EIS that warrants comments.
They take all those comments. They collect them over a 60 day period. Then immediately following that they then consolidate all those comments, review them, and they look through and say, "Are there valid points here?" Because some comments come in and they could be standard form letters from somebody that says, "Why didn't you consider polar bears?" Well, there aren't any polar bears. So tick the box and say, they considered the point, but the fact is, there aren't any polar bears within X thousand miles, so it doesn't need to be considered.
But there could be much more practical points, questions on things that are actually at site, such as the salmon. Is this adequately protective of salmon? The work we're doing, does it have a reasonable probability of success to achieve the outcome that we're looking to do? So there could be some very good comments. So you'll have the whole spectrum.
They work their way through that process, address the ones that need to be addressed. Sometimes or fairly often – because this document is a beast, it's close to 5,000 pages long, including all the appendices and everything – people don't necessarily see the information. They're looking through a particular chapter and they don't see it in another section. So the response to that comment may simply be, "Yes, that is addressed. It's in a different location than you were looking at." So that's an adequate response. Then there could also be responses, "That's a good point, and we've now addressed it in the final." So that all then feeds into drafting the final.
The current schedule is for the final to be published in Q2 '21, so next year. At the same time as the final EIS is issued, a draft decision is issued. People have probably heard lots of comments about pipelines and other big projects, where they say, "Oh, the project was approved with 52 or 180 conditions." Those are set out in the draft of the Record of Decision, and that is subject to comment and review. Then the final decision is scheduled to come out in September '21. So approximately 12 months from now, we should have a final decision. Then permits are issued and we can get on and start building the mine.
Gerardo Del Real: Once upon a time, Stephen, I consulted and did work for one of the longest term and supportive shareholders for Midas Gold, a gentleman both you and I are familiar with then. I titled the piece, “A Mining Project The Salmon Would Vote For.” Again, for those that are new to this space, can you actually explain all of the work that you're going to be able to clean up? Because this is one of those few mining projects that's going to do a ton of cleanup work before mining ever begins. Can you explain that?
Stephen Quin: Sure. So this is a brownfield site. It was the largest producer of antimony and tungsten in the US during the Second World War and Korean War, produced over 90% of the antimony and around 40 to 50% of the tungsten. Because of its strategic importance, they were very much mined as much as possible, as fast as possible, and really weren't considering the longer term consequences of what they were doing. This started just pre-war because China cut off, it was invaded by Japan and cut off the supply demand for antimony and tungsten, and the US became obviously concerned about this. So they started ramping up the development of the site.
In 1938, they cut off a fish passage, including salmon, to the headwaters of the east fork or the south fork of the Salmon River, a bit of a mouthful, but key point to this, it's a tributary of the Salmon River. So salmon hadn't been able to get upstream for about 80 years now. We recognized when we came to site, given the legacy and impact the prior operators left behind, directed by the government, is that we really needed to bite the bullet and take on all of those previous liabilities and go fix the problem.
So we designed our project around water quality and getting fish back upstream and improving the habitat when they got there, to fix all of those problems that are essentially fish and water related. We designed our project around that. It's one of the key components of the project that is being permitted, as well as redeveloping the mine.
All of that cleanup work, getting fish back upstream, improving the habitat, improving water quality, is integral to the project that's being permitted. That's definitely a big factor. You take an area that currently has no salmon able to migrate upstream, to one that has a dynamic robust ecosystem that allows fish to migrate up and down, and hopefully improves the salmon population in the area.
Gerardo Del Real: It's a large reason why I believe the project has received such bipartisan support which, again, for a mining project is not common. Another reason, frankly, is because I think that the billion dollar investment in construction, along with the 500 direct and numerous indirect jobs that are going to result from the project, I think all bodes well for a region that I know largely supports the project, wants the economic stimulus attached to it. Just really good work, Stephen. Is there anything else that you'd like to add?
Stephen Quin: I think that people or shareholders or investors, they can go to a new website, an additional website called RestoreTheSite.com. It's just all one word, RestoreTheSite.com. There's a bunch of information there, but there's also an opportunity to write a letter to the regulators saying you support the project. It helps you generate specific letters. Because as I said earlier, one just saying, "I like mining" or "I like Midas" doesn't really count for anything. We populated this site with a whole series of different types of comments. Every time you refresh the page, a different type of letter comes up. Then you can personalize it, add your own information, where you come from, why you're interested in that. That will help the cause in demonstrating to the regulators that we have a strong supportive base across the United States.
Gerardo Del Real: One last question before I let you go, Stephen. You and I, once upon a time, talked about a potential offtake for the antimony, which is a critical metal. It's strategic. There's value there that I think also helps the permitting process. Is there consideration still given to that, or is that on the back burner for the time being?
Stephen Quin: It's always one of those considerations that you factor in as part of the overall puzzle of moving the project forward. I would characterize that when we are talking about that, it was in a very different gold price and share price environment. We've had a much stronger gold price and share price, it gives you more opportunities and more flexibility, because any of those offtake type agreements, they cost. They're a mechanism to get funding. But they're generally more expensive than what you might call traditional or conventional funding. It's definitely on the table. It's part of the discussion, it will be part of the discussions as we move forward. But there are probably a lot more opportunities out there today than there were two, three, four years ago.
Gerardo Del Real: It sounds to me like you're negotiating from a position of power and leverage. I know that was not the case six to nine months ago. Stephen, congratulations again. Look forward to chatting soon.
Stephen Quin: Great. Thanks, Gerardo. And people, if they want to go to RestoreTheSite.com, please go ahead and provide a comment.
Gerardo Del Real: Thanks again, Stephen.