Members of the Alaska Miners Association heard an update recently of the Niblack project on Prince of Wales Island from Patrick Smith, CEO and President of Heatherdale Resources. He gave an overview of the project’s status, and responded to some questions from those who attended the lunch meeting.

The Niblack project is on a sort of hiatus, and Smith said he’s heard concern from members of the public. He said he’s glad for an opportunity to clarify what’s going on with Heatherdale.

Smith addressed some funding challenges that the project faces.

“There’s a lot of challenges in our industry right now. Maybe people don’t watch my end of the mining industry too closely, but right now from the big to the junior companies that aren’t producers, like Heatherdale, there’s not a lot of confidence in the industry, as a whole, financially,” Smith said.

“We don’t know when that will change – all these things are cyclical. Commodities prices are still pretty robust. If you look at the price of gold and silver, the prices are still good. But the market is weak.”

As a result, Smith projects the project won’t move forward too much at this time. He explained that lack of funding slows down the project.

“Heatherdale is strong, but we don’t really anticipate having a strong program this year. We’re actually in the same position we were in last year at this time. We didn’t get our drill program going until towards the end of July, last year. I’m still optimistic that some of the people we are talking to and some of the sources of funding that may happen will come to us. Hopefully we can get a program going this year.”

Despite limited funding, Smith said there has been a lot of “behind-the-scenes” work. He assured the audience that he and his team of geologists and geophysicists have a lot of ideas prepared for when they reach the next phase of the project.

Smith also pointed out that Heatherdale will take caution as it examines partnerships as a means to raise funds. However, he says that they are hesitant to relinquish too much control to partners who may not share the same vision and goals as Heatherdale.

During a question-answer session, Smith continued to address concerns. He explained the many steps involved – from engineering work to “pre-feasibility,” permitting and beyond. In all, the project appears to have many variables.

When asked about political challenges to the project, Smith said he is confident the program has the support needed to eventually succeed.

“The project is, almost, in some cases, ahead of itself  because it has so much support from the communities, from the public, the politics behind it, the communities on Prince of Wales Island, the people here in Ketchikan, permitting agencies… We have community support and there aren’t many projects – when I talk about this project outside – there aren’t many projects that measure up in that way so well. So, that gets back to a lot of the interest we have in this particular project, in the Niblack project. In my opinion, it will move ahead. It will have its day. And I will move it ahead as optimistically and as fast as I can. But right now the funding aspect of it is a bit difficult.”

Toward the end of the meeting, Richard Peterson of Kasaan voiced his concern over the company’s Prince of Wales Island presence.

“I think part of that communication, and having that community support is Prince of Wales,” said Peterson. “It’s a large part of that, and they need that outreach too, and there hasn’t been any since the last time you were there for the mining symposium, and it was all positive. And you’ve enjoyed support from Murkowski and Begich, and what have you, and that started on Prince of Wales, with the letters that came out of there.”

Smith and Project Manager Graham Neale agreed with Peterson that POW is a huge part of the project, and that they need to foster support there, as well as in Ketchikan.