Tag Archives: Eldorado Gold

Eldorado Gold’s Efemçukuru mine to test Normet battery-electric vehicle

Eldorado Gold’s underground mining battery-electric vehicle journey is set to begin next month, with the company imminently awaiting the arrival of a Normet SmartDrive concrete transportation vehicle at its Efemçukuru gold mine.

The company has reviewed the potential for the use of battery-electric vehicles at its Lamaque underground gold mine in Canada in the past, but this is the first official trial of zero emission mobile equipment the company will conduct. This aligns with the company’s recently announced target of mitigating GHG emissions by 30%, from 2020 levels, by 2030 on a ‘business as usual’ basis; equal to approximately 65,000 t of carbon dioxide equivalent. To achieve this target Eldorado is focused on pursuing decarbonisation through four key pathways including: measuring and monitoring; operational efficiencies and continuous improvement; technologies, processes and energy generation; and energy procurement and strategy.

Set to arrive at the mine, in Izmir Province, western Turkey, at the end of the month, the Normet Utimec MF 500 SD transmixer will be tested in a combination of ramp and flat drifts over the latter part of April.

Efemçukuru, a high-grade epithermal deposit, will provide a good test for the machine. While reasonably shallow in terms of depth, the narrow-vein mine has four declines (SOS, MOS, NOS and KBNW), each covering approximately 400 m of strike extent. These declines have 15% inclination, while flat drifts with inclinations ranging from 0-5% will provide a good platform for overall speed.

A spokesperson for the gold miner told IM that the machine, which has already been purchased, will be tested against assumptions provided by the manufacturer for rates of charging and discharging. The machine is then intended to be used in an operational capacity.

“Battery charging rates will be tested for charging from the existing grid, from a quick charging station and from downhill braking,” the team leading the project said. “Moreover, the battery usage rate will be tested for driving in uphill (15%) and flat (0-5%) galleries, against assumptions.”

Testing will also involve the comparison of performance of both battery-electric and diesel machines in uphill tramming, with the company expecting the battery-electric transmixer to outperform the diesel-equivalent in these head-to-head tests due to the machine’s high torque.

The Utimec MF 500 Transmixer SD (pictured here at Normet’s outdoor test track at its Iisalmi factory) has a 4.4 cu.m concrete carrying capacity, and comes with a combined power rating of 200 kW alongside a maximum tramming speed of 20 km/h.

Normet says the machine is designed for fast and safe concrete transportation in underground mines and tunnels where the tramming height is at least 2.4 m. The concrete drum rotation is electrically controlled and the speed ranges between 0-13 rpm.

Tested at both the Normet factory and the First Quantum polymetallic Pyhäsalmi mine in Finland, the MF Transmixer 500 SD has displayed a payback period of 2-3 years based on the machine completing a two-hour cycle that involves a 3 km journey on a 1:7 decline running at 15 km/h with the bowl rotating, one hour of unloading with the bowl rotating at 15 kW, and an uphill unloaded haul of 3 km at 10 km/h with no bowl rotation.

Eldorado said the MF Transmixer 500 SD will be at the mine site shortly, with training coordinated by Normet taking place in April ahead of the trial.

Eldorado Gold looks to ARES PRISM project controls software to optimise Lamaque

Eldorado Gold’s Lamaque mine in Quebec, Canada, is set to implement ARES PRISM project controls software to help manage the underground operation.

The mine was seeking a project management tool to provide earned value management, process optimisation and accurate reporting, according to ARES PRISM.

Mehdi Bouanani, Projects and Construction Manager at Eldorado Gold Québec, said: “At Eldorado Gold Québec, we are always looking for innovations and tools to optimise our efficiency. The software ARES PRISM allows us to monitor our costs relating to our various projects closely. In addition, reports that show progress status and execution performance are useful. In general, the software meets our expectations very well.”

Eldorado Gold Québec selected Progesys, a project management firm located in Quebec, Canada, to implement ARES PRISM’s cost management software module, PRISM Cost. Progesys provided training for PRISM Cost users at Eldorado Gold and implemented the software on diverse pilot projects.

Kevin McAleese, Cost Control Specialist at Progesys, said: “By using ARES PRISM, the goal was to streamline the project control processes by centralising all data in one place, standardising and accelerating reporting, and improving the reliability and quality of the data. We implemented it conjointly with Eldorado Gold to make sure that the structure and the systems reflected their specific needs.”

With ARES PRISM, the mining organisation will be able to effectively manage the Lamaque Mine project’s budgeting, resource planning, change management, time-phasing, progress, and performance measurement, earned value management, and forecasting all in a single, central location, according to the software vendor.

Geoffrey Stubson, Chief Financial Officer of ARES Project Management LLC, said: “Eldorado Gold Québec clearly embodies its values of responsibility, integrity and accountability. ARES PRISM will help Eldorado further uphold these values by effectively managing project cost, optimising processes and providing accurate reporting.”

Lamaque began commercial production in March 2019 and is expected to mine and process more than 750,000 t of ore at an average gold grade of 6.6 g/t Au.

Kışladağ and Weir Minerals on the HPGR-backed gold recovery trail

The story that led to the installation of a Weir Minerals Enduron® high pressure grinding roll (HPGR) at Eldorado Gold’s Kışladağ heap leach operation in Turkey is a fascinating read, as well as a great example of the benefits of using such technology.

Back in March 2018, Eldorado announced it would suspend mining to evaluate processing options for the operation. This decision followed extensive laboratory tests that indicated gold recoveries would continue to trend downwards around the base of the open pit where mining was underway.

This suspension, plus further engineering and test work, led to the company advancing the potential development of a mill project. The transition away from its heap leaching roots to a possible mill and carbon-in-leach (CIL) process would have added significant capital costs and shortened the mine life significantly.

Before making this significant capital decision, Eldorado paused to take time to undertake the necessary technical work and sought the technical collaboration of Weir Minerals on a solution.

“It was a very challenging period,” George Burns, President & CEO of Eldorado Gold Corporation, told IM. “Kışladağ is a cornerstone asset in our portfolio. It required collaboration with our geologists, metallurgists, site teams and technology providers, including Weir, working together on a solution.”

(Credit: Eldorado Gold)

In late 2018, results showed increased recoveries from an extended leach cycle. Following a deeper understanding of the geometallurgical drivers of the sulphide component of the deposit, improved heap leach recoveries were realised by optimising the metallurgical conditions. With these improved recoveries confirmed, the heap leach plan was revised in early 2019. Eldorado announced plans to resume mining, crushing, stacking and heap leaching at Kışladağ, and suspended plans to build the processing plant.

The decision came following metallurgical test work on the material placed on the heap leach pad in 2018. Gold recovery had increasingly exceeded expectations throughout the year, providing a new, positive heap leaching outlook beyond the near term. At the same time, Eldorado worked with Weir Minerals on the potential use of an HPGR at the operation.

HPGR creates a finer particle size, which helps to liberate the gold particles, resulting in increased recoveries.

An improved understanding of the leaching process on its low-grade ore and the potential of this cost-effective grinding addition provided it with the confidence to continue heap leaching beyond the short-term time horizon previously envisaged.

“Our collaboration with Weir on this effort is an excellent example of how Eldorado collaborates with technology leaders and seeks out solutions,” Burns said. “We believe this is a strength of the company’s core business values. We are agile and flexible ‒ a good example in both business and operations to find innovative, technical solutions and demonstrate prudent capital discipline. Ultimately, the solution was the best technical and economic decision for Eldorado.”

Testing, testing, testing

“The relationship between Weir Minerals’ and Kışladağ goes back to 2013,” Bjorn Dierx, Global Product Manager Enduron HPGR, told IM.

The OEM had been provided with samples on several occasions to investigate different flowsheet possibilities.

“The benefits of HPGR in heap leaching recovery were known by the site’s crew,” he said.

Enduron technology was tested at the quaternary crushing stage before heap leaching, in the quaternary crushing stage before ball milling and at the tertiary crushing directly before heap leaching.

All the time, the mine operator, Tuprag, Eldorado Gold’s subsidiary in Turkey, was evaluating the impact on gold recovery.

Although HPGR in closed circuit with screening was also tested, most of the test campaigns were focused on a configuration with so-called ‘Partial Product Recycling’ (PPR), according to Serhat Onol, Weir Minerals Senior Process Engineer.

“This system includes splitter plates underneath the rolls which ‘cut’ a proportion of the product discharge and reverts this back to the HPGR head feed,” he explained. “This recycle stream can be adjusted online to adapt the product grind towards the downstream requirements.”

PPR is not an option for every application but for Tuprag – due to the feed and desired product size – all specifications showed it was the best route.

“The hybrid solution with screening serves to increase the flexibility and to control the circulating load to the HPGR,” Onol said.

With capacity rates of around 4,200 t/h at Kışladağ, the screening area requirement was reasonably high, he explained.

“The hybrid solution uses screening only for the recirculating stream: the centre product of the HPGR reports to downstream leaching, whereas the rest is recirculated,” he said. This not only removes the fines re-entering the HPGR and, thus, reduces the circulating load, but also avoids the over-grinding of fines before leaching.

The PPR option, itself, is a very flexible operation, with the adjustable discharge splitter plates providing the best circuit flexibility in terms of throughput and product size, according to Onol.

(Credit: Eldorado Gold)

Great expectations

With the main driver of the HPGR installation being an improved gold recovery scenario, leading to an increased heap leach life, the pressure has been on Weir Minerals to come up with the goods.

The final flowsheet, which includes a 2.4 m diameter by 2.2 m long Enduron HPGR with the capacity to process 4,200 t/h, is much simpler than the existing circuit, according to Dierx, with less equipment to maintain, control and monitor.

“A single Enduron HPGR will replace all of the five existing tertiary crushers of which liners would have an average lifetime of circa-one month with a crusher availability of 85%,” he said. “The HPGR tyres have a wear life close to 18 months, with the HPGR achieving a high asset availability of more than 95%.

“Additionally, as a result of the HPGR combined with the hybrid PPR system, the existing four tertiary screens are also being decommissioned.”

Not only has the HPGR alleviated the use of this equipment, it is also set to boost that bottom line gold recovery.

“During testing, it was determined that the circuit configuration and HPGR operating conditions, such as pressure, have a direct influence on the gold recovery,” Dierx said. “The current expectation is that the average recovery increase after the commissioning of the Enduron solution will be approximately 4%.”

This could bring gold recovery to approximately 56%, as was declared in a 2020 press release from Eldorado that highlighted a 15-year mine life at Kışladağ with an average annual production of 160,000 oz.

In action

One of the largest brownfield HPGRs Weir Minerals has ever installed has just processed its first material at Kışladağ, which is testament to the hurdles both the Weir Minerals and Tuprag teams overcame during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Despite the challenges we faced during the pandemic, we were able to fully install the machine, including pre-commissioning, in only 22 weeks,” Dierx said.

(Credit: Eldorado Gold)

This was achieved by minimising the amount of work carried out on site via pre-site testing and modular HPGR assembly.

“As the available footprint in existing sites is limited, the unique Enduron design (length:diameter ratio) not only improves the grinding efficiency but also allows for easier implementation with less civil requirements,” Dierx said.

The machine has the potential to be digitally connected to the Weir Synertrex® IoT platform where operators can benefit from direct access to maintenance specialists, who will be monitoring performance and provide necessary operating guidance.

And the Weir Minerals team is confident more Enduron HPGR installations will follow the one at Kışladağ.

“We are very proud of the product’s recognition by our customers as the Enduron HPGR has been selected for all major greenfield HPGR projects in the hard-rock space,” Dierx said. “Despite all the key Enduron differentiators, it is not only merely about the product but particularly the wider experience across Weir Minerals in both the upstream and downstream processes via our wide product portfolio.

“Particularly in these brownfield applications, the system is not operating in a vacuum and every process change influences how the overall circuit works. This requires tacit knowledge, which Weir Minerals holds across their global teams.”

Eldorado’s Burns concluded: “We are pleased to implement a solution that increases gold recovery and supports a 15-year mine life at Kışladağ, allowing Eldorado to continue to provide employment and economic opportunity in the region, as well as provide a solid foundation for future growth.

“Kışladağ has been the cornerstone asset of Eldorado for over a decade, producing over 3 Moz of gold and generating significant value for all stakeholders during that period. This project is a testament to our exceptional team and technology partners working together to execute in challenging circumstances during the pandemic.”

Eldorado Gold green lights underground decline at Lamaque mine

Eldorado Gold is commencing construction of a 3 km decline at its Lamaque underground gold mine in Quebec, Canada.

The fully permitted decline will go from the Sigma mill to the 405 m level of the Triangle mine, where resources and reserves reside.

Eldorado said the $24 million investment was expected to provide multiple near-term and long-term benefits as the company continues to grow production at Lamaque. Earlier this year, it was granted Certificate of Authorization from the Quebec Ministry of Environment to expand underground production from Triangle from 1,800 t/d to 2,650 t/d.

“Detailed engineering and site preparations for the decline will commence this month and surface construction on the portal will begin in Q3 (September quarter) 2020,” the company said.

The decline is expected to be completed by the first half of 2021, but Eldorado is also evaluating the possible addition of an underground crushing and conveying system as well as a potential mill expansion, it said.

Late last year, then-COO, Paul Skayman, told IM the company was considering the use of battery-electric vehicles, or vertical haulage with conveyors, as part of its mine expansion plans.

And, since then, the company has started trialling the SAMS™, or the shallow angle mining system, from Minrail, a system that could allow the company to further enhance Lamaque’s economics, improve safety and develop technical expertise that could potentially be leveraged at some of Eldorado’s other mines.

While an update outlining the path forward at Lamaque is expected in the December quarter of this year, the company said the benefits of the construction of this decline include:

  • Eliminating surface re-handling and haulage (around 26 km round trip) of the ore from the Triangle mine to the Sigma mill, reducing carbon emissions, costs, and removing haulage traffic from the public road network;
  • Reducing the energy requirements for mine ventilation;
  • Supplying a means of secondary egress and ventilation to the Triangle mine, increasing safety underground;
  • Providing underground access for lower cost exploration in the prospective area between the Triangle mine and the historic Sigma and Lamaque mines – including further drilling of the Plug 4 and Parallel deposit and the Ormaque zone; and
  • Facilitating increased future production from the Triangle mine (contingent on continued reserve expansion) and allowing for mining of the Parallel deposit.

George Burns, Eldorado President and CEO, said: “We are pleased to begin construction of the decline at Lamaque this summer. This is a project that we have been advancing for nearly a year and is another step towards further production growth and continued value creation at Lamaque.”

Eldorado Gold lays the foundations for Lamaque mine tech testbed

When Eldorado Gold acquired the Lamaque project, near Val-d’Or, Quebec, from Integra Resources back in 2017, many observers would have assumed the larger company would just follow the blueprint set out by the junior miner.

That plan – outlined in a February 2017 preliminary economic assessment (PEA) – envisaged the building of a high-grade underground operation able to produce an average of 123,000 oz/y of gold at all-in sustaining costs (AISC) of $634/oz over 10 years. Underground mining would be carried out by long hole and room-and-pillar mining methods, with the former representing 90% of the tonnage and room-and-pillar 10%.

With some existing infrastructure already in place from the historic Lamaque mine (now mined out) and gold prices close to double that of the estimated AISC at the time of acquisition, Eldorado stood to make a healthy profit by following this route.

The company had bigger ambitions for the mine.

In 2019, Eldorado declared commercial production at Lamaque just over 18 months after the acquisition. The company recently put out five-year guidance for the mine showing production increasing to 150,000 oz/y, which would be facilitated by an increase in underground development.

Further plans include technical work to find the optimal production rate for the Triangle deposit – the underground deposit that feeds the Sigma mill. Together, these two assets form the new Lamaque mine.

In late March, at the same time as declaring a suspension of operations at Lamaque in line with provincial regulations related to curtailing the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the company announced it had been granted approval to expand mine throughput to 2,650 t/d, from 1,800 t/d.

As these targets have been hit, the company has looked to apply new technology and techniques to the Lamaque orebody to improve performance.

Late last year, then-COO, Paul Skayman, told IM the company was considering the use of battery-electric vehicles, or vertical haulage with conveyors, as part of its mine expansion plans.

This year, the company has followed that up by agreeing to trial a revolutionary mining technique that could allow it to further enhance Lamaque’s economics, improve safety and develop technical expertise that could potentially be leveraged at some of Eldorado’s other mines.

Suddenly, Lamaque is being thought of not just as a profitable run-of-the-mill gold mine, but a place where industry-wide technical and technological advancements can be made.

SAMS

SAMS™, or the shallow angle mining system, has been in existence since 2012 when Quebec-based Minrail consolidated several patents associated with previous iterations of a mechanised mining technique developed for narrow, shallow dipping deposits oriented at 10-45°.

The rail-based system starts with the excavation of a niche and draise (a drift/raise hybrid) through conventional methods. After this, workers install double overhead rail that tracks the angle of mineralisation throughout the excavated area.

Various units to carry out mechanised mining of the mineralisation – a hydraulic drill for development, longhole drill for production, rock breaker, a scraper/excavator, power unit, air/water spool, etc – hang off this rail, which is securely bolted in place. A work platform where operators can carry out drilling, explosives loading and mucking from a safe distance under supported ground is also attached to the overhead rail.

The typical mining cycle sees the orebody drilled, explosives placed, and blasted material transported to the ore access drift using the excavator module in combination with a slusher. From here, loading and hauling takes place.

According to Minrail, the system offers the potential to significantly reduce dilution, operating costs and mine capital development costs. Marc R Beauvais, President and CEO of Minrail, explains: “What makes SAMS stand out so much is it allows companies to significantly reduce the need to excavate tightly spaced access drifts. Other mining methods require reduced vertical separation between each level, thus increasing the number of levels within the mine infrastructure.”

Using wider spaced levels reduces the amount of time required to extract the ore from within the orebody as less time is spent excavating waste rock material, according to Beauvais.

“In certain cases, we have seen up to a 40% reduction in lateral development, translating into millions of dollars in savings,” he told IM. This also translates to the ability to access ore zones much quicker than conventional methods.

“On top of that, the mining method, in itself, is highly selective, therefore, reducing again the rockwork required to extract the ore. What people need to understand is in a SAMS mine layout, SAMS aims at the ‘ounces contained’ within the orebody, not the raw tonnage,” Beauvais said.

It is these traits, on top of the significant safety benefits of applying the system, that attracted Eldorado Gold’s Lamaque team to the technology, according to COO and Executive VP, Joe Dick.

“We may not have mined these narrow, shallow-dipping veins conventionally, at least directly, without such technology,” he told IM.

Dick says he is excited about what the technology could provide both the company and the Lamaque asset.

“It brings a way to advance the mining economics by extracting resources that the current mining method (long hole mining) is not suited to.

“Testing will also potentially give us an idea of if the technology will be suitable in other jurisdictions with similar orebodies – from a geometric and orientation perspective.

“We will also be able to build some technical expertise around the technology, which is always good to have.”

By far the biggest benefit SAMS could bring the Lamaque team is improved safety, according to Dick.

“One of the things SAMS would allow us to do is advance areas under supported ground that, in the past, we had to either mine around or ‘bar loose’ as we were advancing. First and foremost, this is the main appeal.”

Sylvain Lehoux, General Manager at Lamaque, adds to this: “It’s also worth pointing out that we will be able to drive this machine remotely.”

Lehoux said the company has already started carrying out remote mucking with LHDs between shifts that has been facilitated through SAMS testing.

Beauvais said: “In its third generation, SAMS equipment is designed to undertake most of the rockwork activities without the presence of an operator in the ‘hot zone’. Live video capture from the four onboard cameras can be transmitted to the surface along with all the data collected (mechanical, electrical, hydraulics, etc) from the various onboard probes and sensors.

“Three-dimensional, high-density scanning of the ‘in progress’ rockwork is also available,” he said.

The third generation

Eldorado and Lamaque are coming to the SAMS technology in the third generation Beauvais speaks of. In the eight years since Minrail was founded, SAMS has evolved.

The first-generation SAMS machine originated from the work of a mining company consortium in 2003. Beauvais eventually brought the patents into the Minrail fold when it was founded in 2012.

The aim of this original iteration was the same – to mine shallow dipping deposits – but the components to carry this out hung off a monorail that proved too inflexible to be practical, according to Beauvais. The second-generation machine, which got an outing at the Beaufor mine in Quebec, was the first to include the double overhead rail design, an innovation that improved flexibility and enabled Minrail to mine a 1,000 t sample at the operation prior to owner Monarques Gold placing the operation on care and maintenance.

The adaptations to this second-generation machine – designed to enable remote operations of all tasks – have provided Eldorado with the confidence to test out the latest generation at Lamaque.

Further down the line, Ascot Resources has included the technology in the “value enhancement opportunities” of its Premier and Red Mountain gold project feasibility study. This could see the technology branch out of Quebec into British Columbia.

Such a response is hardly surprising considering it is the type of 100% electrically powered, zero emission underground mining method operators have been calling out for.

Add to this the prospect of adding an autonomous, remotely controlled ore transportation system to the SAMS mix – Minrail’s Suspended Muck Handling System, or SMHS, which Beauvais says will be tested in prototype form later this year – and the future prospects are great.

But, for the time being, the industry will keep watching how the technology is being applied at Lamaque.

Lehoux, who says there are several veins at Lamaque that fit the 10-45° niche Minrail has set out to mine mechanically, says Eldorado, the Quebec Government (which granted Minrail C$150,000 ($106,718) to help develop a third-generation prototype SAMS machine) and Minrail are working together to create a machine that can be showcased globally.

“This is the first time I have seen mechanisation of these shallow veins – it was always jackleg and conventional stopers,” he said. “The government stepped in and provided funding because it is a new machine, developed in Abitibi, that is of global significance.”

Lehoux and Dick say Eldorado is fully committed to making a success of the technology and has put experienced miners on the system to enable the machine to be finetuned as the project progresses.

The initial feedback from Lehoux and his team is positive.

“We have run the latest version of the machine on site, drilling a couple of rounds and mucking out from there,” he said. “As you know, we restarted last week (April 15) after the restrictions from the government were lifted. So far, it is going really well with the Lamaque team and Minrail team on site.”

There is also talk internally at Eldorado about how SAMS could fare at its underground mines in Greece.

With at least one or two shallow dipping veins at Lamaque set aside for testing out SAMS, Dick and Lehoux are hopeful that, by the end of the summer, the company will be in the position to evaluate the technology’s commercial potential.

“There is drilling and mucking ahead, but we also want to test the ground control,” Lehoux said. “We might have to modify the machine to accelerate the cycle, and we also need to evaluate how long it takes to dismantle and setup a machine to go from one vein to the next.”

Beauvais, while acknowledging the dedication and collaborative nature of the team at Lamaque, thinks the machine will pass all the tests set for it: “The bottom line is: SAMS allows you to not only save money as you mine out the resource, but it also enables you to reduce your overall mine footprint.

“It requires less rockwork, comes with a significant reduction in ventilation and heating requirements, provides quicker access to revenues, offers a far safer and ‘cleaner’ working environment with zero emissions, and is automation-ready technology.

“That’s smart mining.”

Lehoux says if the technology works, Lamaque could be used as an example for the whole mining world, “where other sites will come down underground to see the cycle and evaluate how it works”.

Lamaque will then become more than just a mine. It will become a global testbed for a new revolutionary technology.

Ascot Resources considers SAMS mining method after releasing positive feasibility study

The feasibility study on Ascot Resources Ltd’s Premier and Red Mountain gold projects in the Golden Triangle of British Columbia, Canada, has shown off some compelling economics, as well as indicate potential future upside using an emerging mining method called the shallow angle mining system (SAMS).

SAMS, similar to Alimak mining, according to Ascot, is a new technology system focused on the mechanisation of ore extraction developed by Quebec-based Minrail. The system cropped up in the “value enhancement opportunities” section of Ascot’s study.

Ahead of that, the study, led by Sacre-Davey Engineering Inc, showed off some encouraging results.

Using a base case of $1,400/oz gold, $17/oz silver and a C$ to US$ exchange rate of 0.76, Premier and Red Mountain could provide a post-tax net present value (5% discount) of C$341 million ($242 million) based on initial capital expenditure of C$147 million. Life of mine (eight years) payable production came out as 1.1 Moz of gold and 3 Moz of silver with peak annual production of 180,000 oz of gold-equivalent.

The study’s mine plan generally used a combination of three mining methods: longhole (64%), inclined undercut longhole (14%) and room & pillar (12%). Minor amounts of cut and fill (2%) and development ore (8%) were also included to extract the mineral reserves of 6.2 Mt at 5.9 g/t Au and 19.7 g/t Ag.

The company assumed a “lease to own cost” for the mobile mining equipment, which primarily consisted of two scissor lifts, three jumbo drills, five haul trucks, five LHDs, 15 ventilation fans, and several other smaller supporting pieces of equipment.

Benefitting from an existing processing facility at the Premier gold project, the study envisaged using a SAG and ball milling flowsheet followed by the refurbished carbon-in-leach circuit. Over the mine life, the plant will operate 365 d/y to produce gold doré with an overall plant availability of 92% and an average throughput of 2,500 t/d, according to Ascot. In the latter part of year three, ore from the Red Mountain project will be introduced to the existing mill facility, it said.

While the economics and technical elements of the feasibility study stacked up, the company also laid out some potential “value enhancement opportunities” beyond the scope of the study.

This is where SAMS and Minrail came in.

Ascot said there was potential for reducing mining dilution and development by undertaking further studies and testing of SAMS.

“SAMS is similar to Alimak mining but at a low angle, with a central drive and long holes drilling laterally, offering the potential to significantly reduce dilution, operating costs and mine capital development costs,” Ascot said.

According to the company, the method is currently being tested by Minrail at Eldorado Gold’s Lamaque mine in Val D’or, Quebec.

A press release from Minrail posted around a year ago said Lamaque had ordered a “group of mining equipment” to undertake underground test work using SAMS at the operation.

“After an extensive review of all currently available underground mining methods and available technologies that are suited to narrow, shallow dipping deposits, Eldorado has perceived the great potential of Minrail’s technology to complement its mine development plans using SAMS, which incorporates critical mining innovations focused on safety, productivity and flexibility,” Minrail said in the statement.

The resource model at Lamaque encompasses several shallow dipping lenses that are believed to be amenable to using SAMS, Minrail added.

This test work was due to take place last year, according to the release.

Yet, in January, the Quebec government announced it would provide a C$150,000 grant to Minrail to complete a prototype SAMS system that would be installed at Lamaque.

Quebec miners shut down operations following COVID-19 government order

The latest provincial government-mandated restrictions to address the COVID-19 situation have seen miners down tools at operations in Quebec, Canada.

Announced on March 23, the order was for the shutdown of all non-essential businesses and services for a period of three weeks, starting on midnight on March 24.

While mining was listed as one of the priority services, those in the mining sector have been instructed to minimise activities.

Yamana Gold, which along with Agnico Gold Mines’ jointly owns the Canadian Malartic mine (pictured), said it would ramp down operations at the mine following discussions with representatives of the Government of Quebec to “obtain additional clarity in regard to the order”.

The operation, Canada’s largest gold mine, will be on care and maintenance and minimal work will be taking place until the date specified in the order (April 13), it said.

Yamana said it was demobilising employees and contractors in a safe and orderly manner, leaving only a small number of employees on site to maintain property and equipment and oversee all environmental responsibilities and obligations.

“A return to full capacity at Canadian Malartic is expected to occur in an expedited manner as soon as the temporary restriction is lifted,” it said.

Yamana’s partner, Agnico Eagle Mines, also announced its LaRonde Complex and Goldex Mine, in the Abitibi region of Quebec, would be ramped down in an orderly fashion while ensuring the safety of employees and the sustainability of the infrastructure.

“Each of these operations are to be placed on care and maintenance until April 13, 2020, and, as instructed, minimal work will take place during that time,” the company said.

With its Meliadine and Meadowbank mining operations in Nunavut being serviced out of Quebec, it said it will also slow activities there.

Eldorado Gold, meanwhile, has temporarily minimised operations at its Lamaque underground mine until April 13.

As of today, it will ramp down operational activity and maintain only essential personnel on site responsible for maintaining appropriate health, safety, security and environmental systems, it said.

“The company remains committed to resuming operations in a timely manner once the suspension is lifted,” Eldorado Gold added.

The news came on the same day it announced the receipt of a Certificate of Authorization from the Quebec Ministry of Environment to allow for the expansion of underground production from the Triangle deposit at Lamaque from 1,800 t/d to 2,650 t/d, once operations resume. This expansion could see annual average gold production rise to 170,000 oz, from close to 130,000 oz.

Hecla Mining has also slowed operations at its Casa Beradi gold mine in the province, with the company saying it will have limited operations in place to protect the facilities and environment while the suspension is ongoing.

Rio Tinto, which operates aluminium operations in the province, said it was working with the government to comply with its directive.

“Rio Tinto understands that the Quebec government has designated industrial complexes including the aluminium sector and the mining industry as essential industries but instructed that they must reduce their business activity to the minimum,” it said.

Over the border in Ontario, there has been a more mixed response to the COVID-19 situation, led by the provincial government taking a different tack to politicians in Quebec.

Some mines, such as Kirkland Lake Gold’s Detour Lake operation and Wesdome Gold Mines‘ Eagle River complex, have reduced the amount of workers on site, whereas others like Newmont (at Musselwhite) have put operations into care and maintenance mode.

Ontario’s government has issued a similar notice to its neighbour about non-essential businesses, but its definition is different.

Businesses that ensure global continuity of supply of mining materials and products, including metals such as copper, nickel and gold, and that support supply chains in northern Ontario including mining operations, production and processing; mineral exploration and development; and mining supply and services that support supply chains in the mining industry including maintenance of operations, health and safety, are all considered ‘essential’.

This extends beyond mining companies, too, with Maestro Digital Mine one of the recent Ontario-based suppliers to confirm it was “deemed an essential service”. It said it would continue to provide support to the underground mining sector, “keeping miners safe with gas sensors and airflow sensors” during this time.

Eldorado Gold weighing BEVs, vertical haulage tech for Lamaque expansion

With production at the Lamaque gold mine, in Quebec, Canada, now in full swing, Eldorado Gold is looking at a potential expansion underground that could involve the use of battery-electric vehicles, or vertical haulage with conveyors, according to Chief Operating Officer Paul Skayman.

Speaking to IM last week, Skayman said the company, following the declaration of commercial production at Lamaque earlier this year, was in the process of working on a preliminary economic assessment (PEA) to expand Lamaque. This study will evaluate increasing throughput from an average of some 1,800 t/d to 2,500 tpd, with a resultant boost in annual average production to 170,000 oz, from close to 130,000 oz.

The expansion PEA is expected to be completed by the end of year and, subject to the results, a prefeasibility study on the expansion will begin, due for completion in the second half of 2020.

While the expansion is over a year away, Skayman said the deepening of the mine could see the company look at the potential for either battery-powered haulage or vertical haulage with conveyors. This would see the mine install a decline to access the orebody, as opposed to sinking a shaft.

Skayman said the provincial government offered incentives to employ such technologies at mine, while power was relatively inexpensive, “so, we are in the right place to be looking at this”. Indeed, Agnico Eagle Mines has employed a Rail-Veyor system at its Goldex mine in Quebec, while MacLean Engineering has delivered at least one battery-powered unit to an underground gold operation in the province.

Eldorado is not currently running any battery-powered units, instead, waiting for the technology to mature to a point where machines can run for a whole shift and the charging infrastructure has been proven, according to Skayman. He said the company was watching projects such as the recently opened Borden mine in Ontario to see where miners were pushing the “technology envelope” in the electrification arena.

Eldorado has other underground operations across the globe, but Skayman said Lamaque was the prime candidate for the use of battery-powered equipment.

“[This technology] is probably more likely to be used at Lamaque than our operations in Europe; Lamaque is a vertical stacked set of lenses and the deeper sections we know of go down to 1,500 m,” he said. “We’re nowhere near that in Turkey at Efemçukuru, which is relatively mature. We eventually get down to deeper sections at Olympias, but nothing like the depth at Lamaque.”

Eldorado connects the Triangle and Sigma dots at Lamaque gold mine

Eldorado Gold says it has achieved commercial production at its wholly-owned Lamaque mine in Quebec, Canada.

Lamaque produces ore from the Triangle deposit, which is then processed at the refurbished Sigma mill.

With an initial mine life of around seven years, Lamaque is planning to mine and process over 500,000 t of ore at an average grade of 7 g/t Au this year, with production expected to amount to 100,000-110,000 oz of gold (including pre-commercial production) at cash operating costs of $550-600/oz of gold sold. Output is then expected to increase to 125,000-135,000 oz of gold in 2020 and 2021.

In 2018, inferred resources at Lamaque were increased by over 50%, and further drilling is currently ongoing to increase both the reserves and resources, Eldorado said. With over 37,000 m of exploration drilling budgeted for 2019 and excess capacity at the Sigma mill, the company said it is well positioned and focused on optimising the potential of the Lamaque mine.

Eldorado’s Chief Operating Officer, Paul Skayman, said: “We are proud to announce the achievement of this important milestone just over 18 months after acquiring this asset. It is a testament to all of the hard work that has gone into the exploration, prefeasibility study, engineering and construction that we have safely delivered commercial production ahead of schedule.”

Lamaque consists of the newly-discovered Triangle gold deposit, only 2.5km south of the historical Lamaque and Sigma mines, which are also on the property and produced over 10 Moz of gold.

Eldorado Gold to continue heap leaching operations at Kisladag

Eldorado Gold has decided to resume mining, crushing, stacking and heap leaching at its Kisladag gold mine, in Turkey, and suspended plans to build a $500 million processing plant.

The decision comes following the receipt of metallurgical test work on material placed on the heap leach pad last year.

Not only will this move defer a significant amount of capital expenditure for the company, it is also expected to help production rise to 390,000-420,000 oz in 2019, compared with 349,147 oz in 2018, a year when Eldorado suspended mining operations at Kisladag due to lower than expected gold recoveries.

Eldorado’s President and CEO, George Burns, said: “The decision to restart mining and heap leaching at Kisladag is supported by improved heap leach recoveries and confirmed by a revised heap leaching plan developed in early 2019. The revised heap leaching plan results in favourable economics when compared to milling, without the risks associated with the construction and financing of a $500 million project.”

On October 23, 2017, the company provided an update on Kisladag operations based on laboratory testwork undertaken during the September quarter of that year, which indicated that lower recoveries were expected from the zone of mineralisation located around the base of the open pit where mining was underway.

Based on available information, in the March quarter 2018, Eldorado elected to suspend mining in order to evaluate processing options. Following a year of engineering and testwork, in October 2018 the company announced that the Board of Directors had approved the advancement of a mill project. Subsequent to that announcement, gold recovery from the leach pad increasingly exceeded expectations. The company then focused testwork and analysis on the viability of resuming mining and heap leaching at Kisladag.

In parallel to mill engineering and analysis, testwork to extract maximum value from material already placed on the heap leach pad and the remaining reserves was ongoing throughout 2018.

Approximately 900,000 t of ore was placed on an inter-lift lined test pad in the March quarter of 2018. Late in the year, results from this pad were showing recoveries of approximately 58% from an extended leach cycle approaching 250 days (compared with around 40% recoveries from the original 90-day column tests).

In early 2019, the company analysed the new data and developed revised heap leaching plans, showing improved economics for the heap leaching scenario, hence the recent decision.

Eldorado said mining was expected to recommence by the end of this quarter, with the three-year guidance of 145,000-165,000 oz (2019), 240,000-260,000 oz (2020) and 75,000-95,000 oz (2021) based on mining and stacking an initial 22 Mt of ore grading over 1.1 g/t over this period, as well as continuing to leach the material currently on the pad.

This would help overall group production go to 390,000-420,000 oz in 2019, 520,000-550,000 oz in 2020 and 350,000-380,000 oz in 2021.

Eldorado said on Kisladag: “While the mill project has been suspended, the project remains viable in the short-term. The viability of the mill project will continue to be assessed in light of the results from ongoing heap leach metallurgical testwork on deeper material and in view of other investment opportunities within the portfolio,” the company said.

The other piece of exciting news within the company’s results was developments at its Lamaque mine in Quebec, Canada.

The company poured first gold from the Sigma mill at Lamaque in December and, in the March quarter, the mine is expected to declare commercial production. This should set the operation up to produce 100,000-110,000 oz of gold in 2019 from the mining and processing of over 500,000 t of ore at an average grade of 7 g/t Au.

Burns said: “At Lamaque, we are very pleased with the performance of our project team who delivered the first gold pour from the Sigma mill in less than 18 months since acquisition.”

In addition, exploration success at Lamaque – which includes significant resource conversion in the C5 orebody, in particular – has led the company to review options to increase throughput at the Sigma mill.

Eldorado said: “The mill has a refurbished nameplate capacity of 2,200 t/d and the potential to expand to its former capacity of 5,000 t/d with a purchase and installation of a SAG mill. Based on planned drilling and the potential conversion of inferred resources in C4, C5 and C6, the company expects to explore options to increase mill feed.”

The Lamaque underground mine is currently expected to produce 125,000-135,000 oz of gold in both 2020 and 2021.