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Federal Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault has approved the environmental assessment for the Valentine gold project, allowing the project in central Newfoundland to proceed based on applicable permitting.

The approval comes slightly more than three years since the start of formal environmental assessments, CEO Matt Manson said.

“During that time, the company has conducted extensive environmental and social-impact studies, and undertaken comprehensive community and stakeholder engagement, all designed to support a successful and sustainable gold mining operation at the Valentine Lake area.”

The completion of the federal environmental assessment allows permits to be acquired for on-site activities pertaining to federal jurisdiction. Marathon previously received the project’s mining and surface leases from Newfoundland and Labrador. Permitting is ongoing for initial construction activities.

The decision statement issued by the Minister establishes 133 conditions that Marathon must comply with throughout the life of the project. These conditions include measures to protect fish and fish habitat, migratory birds, species at risk like the woodland caribou, air and water quality, human health and Indigenous peoples’ use of resources.

For example, to ensure the woodland caribou population is protected, Marathon must take certain precautions before project construction begins. The company must identify time periods during which project activities are less likely to negatively impact the species, and conduct project activities during those times. Marathon must also place emphasis on avoiding the destruction or alteration of woodland caribou habitat.

Furthermore, the firm will be responsible for developing and implementing a follow-up programme in order to verify the accuracy and effectiveness of the mitigation measures aimed to protect fish and fish habitat.

A feasibility study has proposed an openpit mining operation with a low initial capital cost and a high rate of return over a 13-year mine life.

Average gold production is estimated at 173 000 oz/y from 2024 to 2033, from the processing of high-grade mill feed, and at 56 000 oz/y from 2034 to 2036, from the processing of low-grade stockpiles.

The project will have a mill capacity of 2.5-million tonnes a year, based on gravity leaching, expanding to four-million tonnes a year in Year 4, based on gravity-floating leaching.