Tag Archives: Goldex

Autonomous loading and hauling pays off at Agnico’s LaRonde, Kittila gold mines

Increased uptake of autonomous loading and hauling technology at the LaRonde (pictured) and Kittila gold mines has helped Agnico Eagle Mines post a record quarter of production for the last three months of 2020.

Payable gold production in the fourth quarter of 2020 was 501,445 oz at all-in sustaining costs of $985/oz, the company reported. This compared with 494,678 oz at an AISC of $1,039/oz in the prior-year period.

Homing in on LaRonde Complex (including the LaRonde mine and the LZ5 Mine), in Quebec, Canada, Agnico put the good performance at LaRonde – production of 105,729 oz during the quarter, down from 112,704 oz in the prior-year period when gold grades were 7.3% higher – down partially to the automation strategy that, the company said, had helped improve productivity and allow continuation of mucking activities during non-entry protocols related to seismicity.

In 2020, 13% of tonnes mucked from stopes at the LaRonde mine were carried out in automation mode and, in December 2020, a record 39% of the production mucking at the LaRonde mine was carried out from surface, which included 100% of the production mucking from the West mine area.

At LZ5, in 2020, 14% of tonnes mucked and hauled to surface were accomplished in automated mode with operators based on surface. This surpassed the 15% target the company had set. For 2021, it is expected 17% of the tonnage will be mucked and hauled remotely to surface and the production rate is expected to be sustained at around 3,000 t/d. “The LZ5 automation team will continue optimising the automated mining techniques,” Agnico said.

Agnico said the target for 2021 is to muck over 17% of the total tonnage for the LaRonde Complex from surface. The company said it is also carrying out work to perform production drilling using automation.

In a January presentation, Agnico stated that 10 LHDs and four trucks had been equipped with Sandvik’s AutoMine® system. Back in 2018, Sandvik announced that the LaRonde mine would become the first operation to use AutoMine with LTE communication network underground on a production scale.

To continue tailings deposition through the LaRonde Complex life of mine, Agnico is also constructing dry-stack tailings facilities, which are expected to be operational by the end of 2022. Dry stacking will help limit the footprint of the new tailings facility and improve the closure of the main tailings ponds, Agnico said.

Moving to Finland at the Kittila gold mine, the use of automation also paid off.

The company said Kittila continued delivering strong performance in the December quarter of 2020, with production above forecast by around 6,000 t. This also coincided with the commissioning of the expanded mill at Kittila, which is now ramping up towards the design capacity of 2 Mt/y.

The mine delivered a record full-year ore production of around 1.85 Mt in 2020, according to the company.

“This performance (in Q4) is driven by an improved fleet management and an increased usage of automation,” Agnico said.

Kittila has been testing autonomous hauling trucks and tele-remote equipment and is targeting to achieve 50% of production drilling and 15% of hauling remotely in 2021, it said.

On top of this, Agnico said the mill had consistently increased availability and the company was evaluating the implementation of advanced process control in 2021.

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.”