Agnico Eagle starting to perfect autonomous mining at LaRonde West in Quebec

In its latest Q3 2020 results to end September, gold miner Agnico Eagle reports that autonomous operations continue to progress at its LaRonde mining complex and the nearby LZ5 operation. Both mines now have LTE underground networks installed. LZ5 has a Sandvik AutoMine fleet including LH517 LHDs and TH551i trucks while LaRonde uses a Caterpillar fleet and Cat’s Command for underground autonomous technology including R2900G machines.

The 100% owned LaRonde mine in northwestern Quebec achieved commercial production in 1988.  The company acquired the LZ5 project in 2003. The LZ5 property lies 3 km west of the LaRonde mine and previous operators exploited the zone by open pit. The LZ5 underground mine achieved commercial production in June 2018. Access to LaRonde’s underground mining operation is through the 2.2 km deep Penna Shaft, the deepest single-lift shaft in the Western Hemisphere. LZ5 is accessed by underground ramp.

Mining activities in the LaRonde West mine area the company said progressed ahead of schedule in the third quarter of 2020. The West mine area contributed approximately 12% of the tonnage mined at the LaRonde Complex, operating at an average rate of 1,037 t/d.  The ore extracted from this area returned higher grade than anticipated, supporting the strong gold production performance from the Complex.  For the fourth quarter of 2020, seven stopes are planned to be mined in this area. The ore mined is expected to increase to approximately 1,150 t/d in the fourth quarter of 2020, which is expected to represent approximately 15% of the ore mined at the LaRonde Complex.

The company said the good performance in the West mine area is partially a result of the automation strategy that helped improve productivity and reduced employee exposure to seismicity. “Since April 2020, 54% of the West mine stope mucking has been done with automated scoops. In September 2020, 87% of the production mucking relied on automation. Going forward, the West mine area is expected to be mucked mostly in automated mode. Automated drilling is still at the testing phase.”

The successful implementation of automated mining techniques at nearby LZ5 has resulted in a consistent improvement in productivity. In 2020, 12% of the tonnage was mucked and hauled remotely to surface, slightly below the 15% target. However, the forecasted production rate of 3,000 t/d was achieved in the third quarter of 2020 and is expected to be sustained in the fourth quarter of 2020 and in 2021. Further productivity gains are expected as the LZ5 automation team continues optimising the automated mining techniques.

At the 100% owned Goldex mine in northwestern Quebec began production from the M and E zones in September 2013. Commercial production from its Deep 1 Zone commenced on July 1, 2017. A new Rail-Veyor maintenance bay was commissioned at the beginning of July 2020 giving more operating hours to the Rail-Veyor system and increasing its productivity. Over the third quarter of 2020, the Rail-Veyor hauled an average of 6,328 t/d from the Deep mine and it is expected to operate in the range of 6,500 t/d and 7,000 t/d in the fourth quarter of 2020.