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New Minago nickel project owners hire former Vale Thompson employees to help manage prospective mine

The new owners of a proposed nickel mine off Highway 6 between Ponton and Grand Rapids have recruited plenty of talent who once worked in Thompson to help them bring it to production. Silver Elephant Mining Corp.
A map showing the location of the Minago nickel project, which was acquired by Silver Elephant Minin
A map showing the location of the Minago nickel project, which was acquired by Silver Elephant Mining Corp. from Victory Nickel in February.

The new owners of a proposed nickel mine off Highway 6 between Ponton and Grand Rapids have recruited plenty of talent who once worked in Thompson to help them bring it to production.

Silver Elephant Mining Corp., which bought the Minago project from Victory Nickel in February, have hired three former Inco/Vale employees with experience in Thompson and northern Canada to assist with the project, which they hope to eventually operate through the company’s wholly-owned Flying Nickel Mining Corp.

Robert Van Drunen, who worked for 30 years with Inco and Vale in Thompson, is the Minago project manager, Silver Elephant said in a May 25 news release. Van Drunen has held positions including mine manager,  and senior project manager for Vale’s Manitoba Operations and holds a master’s certificate in project management from York University. In addition to his work on the Minago deposit, Van Drunen will also assist the company’s projects in Nevada and Bolivia.

Also hired as an advisor to the project is former head of Vale Manitoba Operations Mark Scott, who left the company in 2018, around the same time that the smelter and refinery were permanently shut down. Scott has over 20 years of experience with Vale and Noranda and also served as the director of mining and milling and the nickel refinery manager in Thompson. He holds a bachelor of arts from Dalhousie University, a master of industrial relations from the University of Toronto and a certificate in project management from York University and the University of Winnipeg.

Silver Elephant’s vice-president of Canadian operations in Danniel Oosterman, who began his career with Falconbridge and Inco and was part of the exploration team that drilled the T-3 deposit in Thompson. He has also managed multi-million drilling programs in challenging weather and environments including the Western Cordillera and the Bolivian Andes.

The Minago project received an environmental licence for a 10,000-tonne-per-day open-pit mine in 2011 and Silver Elephant says it is studying which of the project’s permits are still in good standing and hopes to update the Environmental Impact Statement this year.

The deposit is transected by both the highway and a Manitoba Hydro transmission line and only about 60 kilometres from the Hudson Bay Railway at Ponton. Silver elephant says $35 million has been spent at Minago, including 74,000 metres of exploration drilling.

“Our experienced exploration, environmental, operational, mergers and acquisitions executives will strive to advance Minago and take Fling Nickel to great heights in the Canadian nickel junior-mining space,” said Oosterman in a press release.