FREDERICTON -- A major New Brunswick mining project -- tapping into one of North America's largest deposits of tungsten -- has received federal environmental assessment approval.
The Sisson Mine project would see the development of an open pit tungsten and molybdenum mine near Stanley, about 60 kilometres northwest of Fredericton.
It would be the only mine in North America for tungsten, which is used in X-ray tubes and smartphone screens.
Right now, China dominates the global tungsten market.
"I think that North America and Canada benefit strategically from having a safe, long-term, viable and reliable access to this mineral," said federal Fisheries and Oceans Minister Dominic LeBlanc -- New Brunswick's federal regional minister.
The Sisson Mine, proposed by Northcliff Resources, would also include an ore processing facility. The company still needs to secure financing.
The $579 million project is expected to create 500 jobs during construction and 300 jobs over the 27-year life of the mine.
The provincial government estimates the project will result in $280 million in mineral royalties and $245 million in tax revenue over the life of the mine.
"Today's announcement is the result of a rigorous, scientific environmental assessment at both the federal and provincial levels," LeBlanc told a news conference in Fredericton.
In February, the provincial government signed an accommodation agreement with six Maliseet First Nations.
"The agreement shares with Maliseet First Nations during this project are projected at 9.8 per cent of provincial revenue that will be generated by the Sisson Mine Project under the metallic mineral tax," said Rick Doucet, New Brunswick's minister for Energy and Resource Development.
Chief Tim Paul said his Woodstock First Nation would be working closely with the company and the provincial government to ensure environmental concerns are addressed.
"It is a historic event to see this kind of partnership. It is one that all New Brunswickers can benefit from as it will hopefully lead to a more environmentally sustainable project," Chief Paul said.
But Lois Corbett, executive director of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, still has concerns. She noted there were 40 conditions placed on the provincial environmental review.
"A lot had to do with the tailing pond design and risks to water such as the Nashwaak River. They would also have to set aside enough money that if an accident or disaster happened, the company would have enough reserve to cover it," Corbett said Friday.
No company officials attended Friday's news conference, but Chris Zahovskis, president and CEO of Northcliff Resources, issued a statement from Vancouver saying the decision reflects "our commitment to create a project that will bring economic benefits to New Brunswick while protecting the environment."
He said the company's focus now will be on securing financing to advance the project.
LeBlanc said construction of the mine is expected to start next spring, and take two years to complete.
Sisson according to government: $579 million - 500 jobs during development - 300 jobs during 27 year lifetime. @CTVAtlantic— Laura Brown (@LauraBrownCTV) June 23, 2017
Government and Maliseet reached an accommodation agreement - Maliseet will see 9.8% of provincial royalties from the mine. @CTVAtlantic— Laura Brown (@LauraBrownCTV) June 23, 2017
If built, it will be the only tungsten mine in North America. Used in X-ray tubes, smartphone screens, some aerospace applicators.— Laura Brown (@LauraBrownCTV) June 23, 2017