Wells, B.C. – In what could be a transformative development for the tiny town of Wells, British Columbia, an economic revival is on the horizon, courtesy of a resurgent gold mining industry.
This week marked a significant milestone as the BC Environmental Assessment Office concluded its comprehensive evaluation of the Cariboo Gold underground mine, originally part of the Barkerville Gold district.
The roots of the Cariboo Gold Project trace back to the Barkerville Gold district, initiated by founder Frank Callaghan over two decades ago with Barkerville Gold Mines Ltd. Osisko Gold Royalties Ltd (TSX: OR) later acquired a majority stake, renaming it Cariboo Gold and placing it under the management of subsidiary Osisko Development Corp.
Now, the fate of this ambitious project rests in the hands of the ministers of Environment and Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation, who have 30 days to make their decision.
Estimates surrounding the Cariboo Gold project’s economic impact have varied, with the Mining Association of BC (MABC) suggesting it could lead to capital expenditures of $800 million and the creation of 600 jobs during the construction phase.
Osisko Development, the mine’s proponent, asserts that phase 1 of the project requires just $137 million in initial capital investment, but envisions a total capital spend of $1 billion over the mine’s operational lifespan.
Once operational, the Cariboo Gold mine is anticipated to sustain 500 permanent jobs, effectively doubling the current population of Wells. The MABC predicts an annual payroll of $53 million, with an estimated mine life of 16 years.
While Wells has remained relatively quiet since the closure of the Cariboo Gold Quartz mine in 1967, becoming a haven for artists and tourists en route to attractions like Barkerville and Bowron Lakes provincial park, this project could usher in a new era.
The population of Wells, once 4,500 strong, now stands at just 218. However, opinions within the community are divided, with some residents concerned about the potential industrialization of their peaceful town. A major point of contention is the proposed construction of a concentrator mill on the town’s outskirts.
Outside Wells, in nearby towns such as Quesnel, approximately 80 kilometers away, there appears to be strong support for the project. It is expected to bring new jobs and boost local businesses.
Osisko Development Corp. aims to pour its first gold at the Cariboo Gold mine by 2024, marking a significant chapter in the town’s history and potentially transforming its economic landscape.