Midas Gold (TSX: MAX) CEO Stephen Quin on the Extension of Comment Period for the Stibnite Gold Project Draft EIS & How to Ensure Your Voice is Heard
Gerardo Del Real: This is Gerardo Del Real with Resource Stock Digest. Joining me today is the President and CEO of Midas Gold (TSX: MAX)(OTC: MDRPF), Mr. Stephen Quin. Stephen, how are you?
Stephen Quin: We're doing good up here in Canada.
Gerardo Del Real: It's good to have you back on. I wanted to reach out and touch base about the most recent bit of news, which was an extension on the comment period on the Draft EIS for the Stibnite Gold Project in Idaho. We know the project has overwhelming bipartisan support. We know the economics are robust. You happen to be hitting the sweet spot of what I believe will be a historic gold bull cycle. But this latest bit of news does drag out the comment period a bit.
Can you speak to the decision by the regulators to extend the comment period and what that means? Then I want to talk about how those of us who support the project can get involved in and use this extension for a positive reason, right?
Stephen Quin: Sure. I appreciate the opportunity, Gerardo. As people know, this is a big, long-life, low-cost project in Idaho. It's an unusual project because it's a brownfield site that's been heavily impacted by prior mining, primarily during the Second World War and Korean War. That makes for a complex project because we're not just building a new mine. We're cleaning up old mines that have been around and abandoned for half a century or more, 80 years. That added a lot of complexity to the review process.
We've been in the permitting process for four years now. Finally, in mid-August the Draft Environmental Impact Statement was put out. Because of the complexity of the project, the regulators immediately put out the comment period to 60 days, which was already a third longer than the required 45 days. They took it from 45 to 60 days right out the gate.
Just yesterday, we were informed by them that they were going to add another 15 days to the process. It's not unexpected given the complexity of a project like this. We're not necessarily enthusiastic to get another extension, but we understand the reasoning. There's a lot of information out there that needs to be digested. But the project has been well disclosed for six years. A pre-feasibility study was published in 2014. The permit application was filed in 2016. Those are all publicly available documents. Since then we've done over 900 community presentations on the project. We've taken 1,800 people to site. There's a lot of understanding on the project and there's over 1,300 people already commented. But there have definitely been parties out there who have been saying, "Look, there's a lot of information here that needs to be digested before we can comment efficiently and effectively."
So the regulators decided to push it out two weeks. If you look at it in the scale of the comment period, taking it to 75 days, well now it's two-thirds longer than the required 45 days. So that's a lot of extra time on the delay side. Realistically, does 15 days on a four-year process to date make a dramatic difference from an investment perspective? I would say not. But, we think it's time to sort of wrap up this stage and get on with selecting a preferred alternative and getting to the final EIS and the decision. So we're definitely encouraging the regulators to push down that part and start wrapping this process up. Sort of when is enough enough?
Gerardo Del Real: I typically take a wait and see approach when it comes to projects in the permitting phase. There's two projects in the past decade or so that I've been involved with where I've been extremely vocal and supportive. One is Almaden Minerals' Ixtaca project, in large part because I've been there several times. I know the quality of work that went into getting the project to this stage of permitting.
The second project, of course, is the Stibnite project. I want to make sure that everybody has an opportunity to go over the study, the project, the fact that this is one of those few projects where the project will actually be, and the land surrounding it, in better shape as a result of the mining operation.
How can people view all of the improvements that Midas and the team will make – a lot of the improvements upfront by the way – to the surrounding areas and how can we opine in support of the project, Stephen?
Stephen Quin: Sure, I think that's a good point, Gerardo. This is an unusual project because it will restore the environment that's been heavily impacted and leave the place a lot better than it was when we got there. I think it's very important for that message to get through to regulators that the combination of about 500 to 600 direct jobs, about 1,500 jobs in total through indirect jobs as well in this time of climbing out of the COVID recession. That's important. We're going to invest about $1 billion dollars in the project. That's important. We're going to produce the critical mineral that's of strategic importance to the U.S. and we're going to clean up the environment. I think those are the messages that the regulators need to hear. In fact, the process is designed to encourage the public to comment.
Now it's always hard for people to do that. I think there's essentially two ways you can do it. You can go to RestoreTheSite.com. That site has a whole bunch of information on the project and you're welcome to read through that. There's probably more than anybody wants to know, but it's all there and available. So feel free to go through that information.
Then the second thing to do is to go to the Count Idaho In website, all written as one word, and there is a pre-structured letter which changes every time you log in. It covers a whole variety of different subjects on the project, whether it's economy, jobs, critical minerals, environment, fish, things like that.
You go to Count Idaho In and there's a letter there, but you can edit the contents of the letter. It really is valuable when people personalize it and say, I'm an investor, I'm a shareholder. I've been investing in this company for years. I've seen what they're doing, it's good. Then leave the balance of the letter, which is on a specific topic, like say fish or jobs or whatever happens to be and tune it to the way you would like it. You just fill in your name and address and email information and press send and it goes to the Forest Service.
The whole process will take you three or four minutes. So it's a very straightforward, simple, made easy process. But it's important that people get their vote in and their comment in because undoubtedly people who are not supportive of mining will organize their great big organizations and mail lists to get negative letters in. It's important the regulators hear both sides of the story because this is a valuable, important project for its economic perspective, its critical minerals and its environmental cleanup.
Gerardo Del Real: I had a subscriber for one of the newsletters I write right in and ask is Midas doing anything and I almost felt like responding in a flippant way and saying, "Well, other than getting a permit to mine one the most robust gold projects in the entire United States, yes, there's other things going on."
For those that are wondering what comes after this comment period closes and the Forest Service and the next steps play out, I know there's a study that is kind of in the wings and waiting for this process to play out that. The study frankly will allow us to see numbers about the robustness of the project and kind of where it stands. How has the study coming along, Stephen?
Stephen Quin: Sure. The feasibility study – and this is a feasibility so a final, advanced document – is nearing completion. It's interacting with the permitting process and hence its timing. Because as things come up during the comment period and comments and regulators and things like that, to the extent we can, we want to make sure that they're addressed in the feasibility study. So they're kind of interrelated.
But once the comment period is closed, hopefully not too long after that, the feasibility study will come out. That will be updated for current economics, including more like current gold prices. We don't use spot prices today, but more long-term averages, which are definitely higher than when we did this study before, which should obviously enhance the economics of the project. That study is another major milestone and scheduled to land hopefully before the end of the year. It should land before the end of the year. That's another big shoe to drop and it should be very positive in this kind of gold price environment.
Gerardo Del Real: I couldn't agree more. Stephen, thank you so much for your time today. Is there anything else that you'd like to add?
Stephen Quin: I just think it's really important that people get their comments in. If you're an investor in the gold mining space and Midas Gold, yes, it's a pain to submit letters, but we've made it easy so go to Count Idaho In and make a comment.
Gerardo Del Real: Sounds good. Stephen, thank you so much.