Friday 21st February 2020

Resource Clips


Open and shut cases: Ontario

2019-2020 brings new technology, new gold, possible cobalt but diamond depletion

by Greg Klein

2019-2020 brings new tech, new gold and possible cobalt but diamond depletion

Pure Gold’s plan to revive this Red Lake mine has deep-pocketed supporters.
(Photo: Pure Gold Mining)

 

Our survey of mine openings and closures for 2019 and 2020 continues with a look at Ontario. This is Part 3 of a series.

 

While mining sustains the electric vehicle revolution, EVs enhance sustainability at Newmont Goldcorp’s (TSX:NGT) “mine of the future.” The company announced Borden’s commercial production on October 1, eight days after an official inauguration attended by representatives from industry, government and natives. The new operation boasts “state-of-the-art health and safety controls, digital mining technologies and processes, and low-carbon-energy vehicles.” The latter distinguish Borden as Canada’s first underground mine to spurn diesel-fueled vehicles in favour of EVs.

2019-2020 brings new tech, new gold and possible cobalt but diamond depletion

Borden’s fleet of underground EVs includes
this battery-powered bolter. (Photo: Business Wire)

Borden now begins a projected 15 years of operation, although milling takes place at the company’s Timmins-region Porcupine facility, 180 diesel-burning kilometres east.

Even so, Ottawa and Queen’s Park each contributed $5 million to subsidize the environmentally correct underground vehicles.

Borden comprises one of four mines in as many continents that Newmont Goldcorp brought to commercial production in 2019—all on schedule, within budget and, the company already claims, making a profit.

Such technical prowess might make this mechanically impractical mixed metaphor surprising, but president/CEO Tom Palmer said Borden “leverages our leading land position to anchor this new gold district in Ontario.” Anchors and levers notwithstanding, he gave up other Ontario turf by selling Red Lake to ASX-listed Evolution Mining in November. Expressing no nostalgia for an operation that was once integral to Goldcorp’s existence, the deal nonetheless contributes US$375 million to a total US$1.435 billion from three recent divestitures by Newmont Goldcorp, one of 2019’s biggest merger stories.

 

2019-2020 brings new tech, new gold and possible cobalt but diamond depletion

Test mining readies Madsen for anticipated production in late 2020.
(Photo: Pure Gold Mining)

That’s not to say the company forsakes Red Lake altogether. As one of four entities together holding over 30% of Pure Gold Mining TSXV:PGM, Newmont Goldcorp backs the camp’s next miner-to-be. Other financial support comes from Rob McEwen, the man behind Goldcorp’s Red Lake success, AngloGold Ashanti NYSE:AU and especially Eric Sprott.

Having started construction in September, Pure Gold expects to start pouring yellow metal at Madsen by late 2020.

Lowering capex while speeding construction, refurbishable infrastructure from two former mines includes a 1,275-metre shaft, 27 levels of underground workings, a mill and a tailings facility.

The property gave up about 2.6 million ounces from 1938 to 1976 and 1997 to 1999. Madsen’s feasibility calls for 12.3 years to chew through a probable reserve of 3.5 million tonnes averaging 8.97 g/t for 1.01 million gold ounces. With the deposit open in all directions, Pure Gold continues exploration in hopes of extending the lifespan.

 

Ontario’s Cobalt camp, meanwhile, was much better known for silver but left a critical mineral legacy in North America’s only permitted primary cobalt refinery. With financial backing from global top cobalt producer Glencore, First Cobalt TSXV:FCC hopes to restart the facility by Q4 2020.

That depends, however, on findings of a pre-feasibility study that might get upgraded to full-feas for an initial 12-tpd operation.

2019-2020 brings new tech, new gold and possible cobalt but diamond depletion

Depending on feasibility and financing, First Cobalt
might reintroduce cobalt refining to North America.
(Photo: First Cobalt)

Commissioned in 1996 and on care and maintenance since 2015, the refinery was permitted for 12 tpd back in 2001. A possible advantage to the study’s economics might be the current improvement in cobalt prices, largely resulting from Glencore’s November suspension of its Mutanda mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The shutdown erased about 20% of worldwide cobalt production, according to Benchmark Mineral Intelligence.

Should the 12-tpd scenario work out, First Cobalt plans another feasibility study for an expansion to 55 tpd in 2021, which would place the company fourth in cobalt refining outside China.

Glencore loaned US$5 million to fund the studies and could advance up to US$40 million for rehab work, to be repaid by processing Glencore feed. “The refinery will be an important strategic asset for the North American market and we look forward to working with First Cobalt to help the asset fulfill its potential,” said Nico Paraskevas, Glencore’s head of copper-cobalt marketing.

Faintly suggesting a possible North American supply chain, First Cobalt’s portfolio includes an inferred resource at the Iron Creek cobalt-copper project in Idaho. On its Ontario property, the company drilled some 23,300 metres in 2017 and 2018 around former operations which had historically been mined for silver with cobalt-copper byproducts.

 

Turning to the James Bay region, this diamond mine’s closure might have been preventable but Victor lived up to its name in a number of ways. The shutdown, for example, could have happened nearly six years earlier. Winter road blockades in 2013 almost prevented arrival of heavy crucial supplies that couldn’t be flown in. Some of the protesters from the Attawapiskat reserve 90 kilometres east wanted to renegotiate the Impact Benefit Agreement. Others reportedly wanted their dismissals rescinded.

2019-2020 brings new tech, new gold and possible cobalt but diamond depletion

As humans replant a surrounding forest,
nature converts this 11-year mine to a northern lake.
(Photo: De Beers)

As quoted in the Timmins Daily Press, De Beers’ external and corporate affairs director Tom Ormsby warned that “Victor is a very solid, steady mine but it can’t keep taking all of these financial hits.”

Ontario Provincial Police initially refused to enforce a court order against the blockade, then finally moved in after protesters left voluntarily. Transport resumed and Victor lived out the rest of its nearly 11-year lifespan. Mining ended in early March 2019, by which time the total output of 8.1 million carats far surpassed the company’s original estimate of six million. Processing continued on stockpiled ore until late May.

But Tango, a smaller, lower-grade kimberlite seven kilometres away, might have added another five or six years of mining. Attawapiskat representatives, however, declined De Beers’ efforts to consult.

Victor’s closure leaves De Beers with just one mine outside Africa. The company holds the majority of a 51%/49% JV with Mountain Province Diamonds TSX:MPVD on Gahcho Kué in the Northwest Territories. De Beers put its NWT Snap Lake mine on extended care and maintenance in late 2015 as construction of Gahcho Kué neared completion. Efforts to sell Snap Lake proved unsuccessful.

But the global giant reiterated its interest in Canada with the 2018 purchase of Eric Friedland’s Peregrine Diamonds. That brought De Beers the Chidliak project on Baffin Island, with two of 74 kimberlites currently hosting inferred resources.

As for Victor, a $15.4-million reclamation program that began years earlier had planted its millionth tree within weeks of closure.

This is Part 3 of a four-part series.


Comments are closed.

Share | rss feed

View All: Feature Articles