Remote operations could be the way forward at Westwood, IAMGold says

IAMGold says it is looking to remotely-operated machinery to battle the challenging ground conditions being experienced at its Westwood underground gold mine in Quebec, Canada.

Westwood produced 28,000 oz of gold in the December quarter, 3% lower than the same period a year ago, the company said in its 2018 financial results. This was primarily due to lower head grades.

“The lower grades reflected mining activity that sequenced through lower-grade stopes as part of the mine plan. Head grade, excluding marginal ore, for the fourth (December) quarter and year ended 2018 was 6.78 g/t Au and 7.16 g/t Au, respectively (2017: 8.01 g/t Au and 7.8 g/t Au),” IAMGold said.

Underground development for the year ended 2018 was 10,600 m, averaging 29 m/d and comprised of 10,100 m of lateral development and 500 m of vertical development, according to the company. Underground development continued in the December quarter to open up access to new mining areas with lateral development of approximately 2,500 m, averaging 27 m/d.

The company said: “During the quarter, development continued to focus on the ramp breakthrough on level 132, while respecting safety protocols in place for mining in areas where seismicity is present.”

In line with these safety protocols, three units of bolting equipment designed to manage seismic exposure were received during the December quarter, IAMGold said.

The company said it expects production at Westwood in 2019 to be in the range of 100,000-120,000 oz as mining and development activities continue to progress.

Yet, in maintaining the company’s safety protocols at the underground operation, IAMGold said it was expecting to commission additional equipment at Westwood, in 2019, capable of operating “remotely in areas with challenging ground conditions”.

IAMGold is currently working on reviewing the mine plan at Westwood, its only underground operation, and expects to publish updated development guidance in the December quarter.