Tag Archives: Ontario

Canada Nickel progresses carbon capture and storage test work for Crawford

Canada Nickel Company Inc says the latest test work on material from its Crawford project, in Ontario, Canada, supports the incorporation of carbon capture and storage into the develoment.

The company has devised an In-Process Tailings (IPT) Carbonation process, which, it says, is a novel method for accelerated carbon capture and storage that it believes has transformative potential.

The latest test work conducted at Kingston Process Metallurgy (KPM) confirmed that existing process streams can be used for IPT Carbonation, which the company believes should allow it to be timely and cost effectively engineered and incorporated into the project flowsheet.

Crawford is hosted in ultramafic rock, which naturally absorbs and sequesters CO2, according to the company, with the potential to actively capture and sequester carbon being a key consideration in Canada Nickel’s acquisition of the 42 sq.km of target ultramafic rocks in the Timmins area.

Canada Nickel has developed an active process that uses tailings as generated in the milling process and injects a concentrated source of CO2 for a brief period of time. This process, IPT Carbonation, fixes CO2 geologically while the tailings are still in the processing circuit, rather than after they have been finally deposited.

The company believes that, given its relative simplicity, this process could be scaled up with availability of concentrated (rather than atmospheric) sources of CO2, with the CO2 potentially delivered by downstream processing of Crawford concentrates, a wide range of industrial processing activities, green hydrogen production, or carbon capture facilities.

Canada Nickel said: “The process demonstrates the potential to produce NetZero Nickel™ and NetZero Cobalt™ for the electric vehicle industry, NetZero Iron™ and chromium for the stainless steel industry and generate substantial carbon credits during the process. The company believes that the need for a concentrated source of CO2 for this process and the substantial CO2 capture and storage capacity potential of its ultramafic land position could form the basis for an entire Zero Carbon Industrial Cluster in the Timmins-Cochrane region.”

The latest results from further lab-scale testing at KPM confirmed that a blend of tailings expected to be produced by Crawford and thickened to an expected operating tailings density could be successfully carbonated with the IPT Carbonation process, the company said. This is a significant result to demonstrate the process at higher solids densities as the pulp density and the tailings residence time will be a key driver of the process capital and operating costs, it explained.

The testing also attempted to understand what ultimate carbon capture potential is possible and the test resulted in 37 t of CO2 captured per tonne of nickel – 34 t of that amount was captured within 25 hours. The 37 t figure is believed to represent a potential maximum and there is no certainty that such amount could be achieved in commercial operation, the company said.

As a result of these results, the integrated feasibility study for the project is expected to be delivered in the June quarter of 2023. This delay, the company says, has no impact on the overall timeline to production, with Canada Nickel continuing to target receipt of permits by mid-2025 with construction to follow.

Mark Selby, Chair and CEO of Canada Nickel, said: “We believe the Crawford project has the potential to be a case study in how critical minerals are developed in Ontario and Canada. Crawford is poised to support the energy transition through the large-scale production of critical minerals, including nickel and cobalt, and to become the sole North American producer of chromium, while also supporting the country’s climate objectives through large-scale carbon capture and storage.”

The company believes the successful incorporation of IPT Carbonation could also potentially allow a portion of its project capital expenditures to become eligible for the carbon capture and storage refundable investment tax credits of 37.5% to 60% from 2022-30 and 18.75% to 30% from 2031-40 announced in the 2022 federal budget documents in Canada.

Selby added: “We look forward to continuing our positive momentum in 2023 as we complete this integrated feasibility study for Crawford, continue to successfully advance the Crawford permitting process, work with our recently appointed financial advisors to advance its overall financing package and aggressively advance our recently acquired Texmont property with its potential for near-term production. We are also excited by our successful tests of the regional exploration potential at Reid, Deloro, Sothman and Reaume which, as they are hosted in the same mineralisation as Crawford, offer the same potential for integrated carbon capture and storage – setting the stage for a Zero Carbon Industrial Cluster in the Timmins-Cochrane region.”

Alamos’ Island Gold mine keeps giving up its goods

The latest drill intercepts from Alamos Gold’s Island Gold Mine in Ontario, Canada, have continued to showcase the potential of an asset that already has a more than 17-year mine life ahead of it, John McCluskey, President and Chief Executive Officer, says.

On the same day as releasing an assortment of promising drill intercepts outside of the existing reserves and resources – namely 110.17 g/t Au over 7.79 m, 97.21 g/t Au over 5.05 m and 525.28 g/t Au over 2.33 m – McCluskey continued to highlight the credentials of an asset that had just 1.8 Moz of mineral reserves and resources, and production around the 100,000 oz/y mark when it was acquired by Alamos in 2017 in a $620 million all-share deal for mine owner Richmont Mines.

“We’re now looking at one of the biggest, most profitable underground gold mines in Ontario,” he told IM in a meeting in London this week. “That is a far cry from what the market saw when we first acquired the company. We have since more than tripled the reserve and resource base and continue to build confidence in adding further ounces.”

The Phase 3+ Expansion Study released earlier this year outlined a 2,400 t/d shaft-supported operation with average annual gold production of 287,000 oz, starting in 2026 upon completion of the sinking and equipping of a 1,373-m-deep shaft. This represents a 22% increase from the previous Phase 3 study and a 121% increase from the mid-point of 2022 production guidance of 130,000 oz.

McCluskey confirmed this week that pre-sinking activities at the expansion project had been completed by contractor Redpath, going down to 42 m depth (pictured). He expected full sinking activities to start up next year in line with the above guidance.

The addition of a shaft connected to low-carbon intensity grid power in Ontario will support higher mining rates with a smaller mobile fleet of haul trucks resulting in significantly lower diesel consumption at Island, according to the company. This is expected to drive a 35% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions over the mine life.

While the current plan at Island is to sink down to circa-1,400 m, the company made the decision to acquire a hoisting plant for the expansion that could operate down to depths of 2,000 m. This is an indication of the undefined potential at the mine, according to McCluskey, who admitted the shaft could be sunk to even deeper depths should drilling results justify this.

“It would not require too much more engineering or money to extend the shaft below the circa-1,400 m level, so that is something we will continue to weigh up as we conduct further drilling,” he said. “The Island story continues to grow and we continue to see a very profitable future at what will become one of the lowest cost underground mining operations in the province.”

Newmont Porcupine racing towards start up of state-of-the-art water treatment plant

Newmont’s Porcupine mine has hoted Ontario Premier, Doug Ford, on site, alongside members of his cabinet, to announce its new state-of-the-art water treatment plant at the Canadian mine.

Throughout 2021 and 2022, Newmont made a $160 million investment into the new plant, which will benefit the entire ecosystem and surrounding watershed through the collection, treatment and return of impacted water. Provincially, this plant will have among the lowest effluent discharge limits within the mining sector, the company claims.

The investment, Newmont says, demonstrates how industrial and environmental interests can be aligned, and is a strong example of the company’s commitment to sustainable and responsible mining.

Newmont anticipates that construction of the plant will be completed before year end and begin discharging in 2023. Once operational, the plant will return up to 13 million cu.m of treated clean water to the Mattagami, Frederickhouse and Upper Kapuskasing watersheds.

The company said: “After more than a century of mining in Timmins, the next phase of operations at Porcupine is an opportunity to support regreening the region, significantly improve site water management and support the local watersheds while maintaining employment and economic benefits for Northern Ontario communities, local First Nations and the government.”

Since 1910, the historic Porcupine mining district has produced more than 67 Moz of gold, with the modern Porcupine mine being the largest employer in Timmins, with more than 1,200 employees and contractors, the company says.

Dawid Pretorius, General Manager for Newmont Porcupine, said: “Investments like the new water treatment plant that we are announcing today are only made possible by the steadfast commitments of our employees, all levels of government and our Indigenous communities and partners. I would like to thank all involved for their dedication to upholding our reputation as an industry leader in safe, sustainable and responsible mining.”

Epiroc and Rokion battery-electric machines reduce costs at Evolution’s Red Lake ops

Evolution Mining’s efforts to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 are already being witnessed at its Red Lake Operation (RLO) in Canada, where the company is pursuing fleet replacement and energy efficiency gains through deepening its partnerships with Epiroc and Rokion.

The pacts with the two battery-electric vehicle (BEV) service providers also extend to operational changes Evolution is making via fan timers for underground ventilation at RLO.

In partnership with Epiroc, Red Lake has taken the opportunity to leverage its offering of conversion kits to transform diesel-powered loaders easily and seamlessly to battery-electric driven operation, it said. RLO has ordered two of the converted diesel-powered Scooptram ST1030 machines for deployment underground with the first one delivered at the start of December 2021. The site has also ordered two Scooptram ST14 battery-electric loaders that are designed based on the diesel ST14 version, which are scheduled for delivery in 2022. This order was announced last year by Epiroc.

The Red Lake team has also purchased three Rokion electric light vehicles – two R100s and an R400. They have been risk assessed in the field, have dedicated charge stations and are capable of online data capture and storage, the company said.

Rokion says the R100 series includes a four-passenger crew truck and a two-passenger utility truck, with both models built on the same frame dimensions and available in ramp-ready configurations. The R400 platform, meanwhile, is able to accommodate three passengers in a utility vehicle setup or up to 12 in a passenger crew variant.

“The electric fleet brings the opportunity to save on maintenance, cooling and ventilation costs with reducing expenditures related to diesel and power usage,” Evolution Mining says.

“This cost saving and energy efficiency has similarly been seen in the recent changes to the underground ventilation fan timers, which are vital in clearing the drives, post blasting of headings. After assessing the timer programming, the functionality of the fan timer switch was altered so that operators can run them when needed rather than running automatically at irrelevant times.”

Redpath opens mobile equipment repair facility in North Bay

Redpath, on the day it celebrated its 60th anniversary, has inaugurated a new state-of-the-art mobile equipment repair facility at its North Bay facility in Canada.

The new facility represents an C$8.5 million ($6.2 million) investment in the company’s North Bay infrastructure and shows Redpath’s continued confidence that the Ontario city is the ideal location for its global headquarters, it said.

The 15,600 sq.ft (1,449 sq.m) building consists of six repair bays, two inspection bays, along with welding and washing bays. Thanks to the new shop, Redpath will be able to handle the complete life cycle of any piece of equipment from its underground mining fleet in-house, it said.

The new building incorporates environmentally conscious features including solar-powered auxiliary power units, heated floors, wastewater collection and recycling, and recirculated air for ventilation.

Redpath said: “It was 60 years ago that Jim Redpath started the company with the commitment to provide superior contracting services to the mining industry. From a mere four employees in the early 1960s, Redpath today employs over 6,000 people in projects all over the world.”

RPMGlobal and MIRARCO’s AVM, VCM software to receive funding boost

RPMGlobal has announced an increase in funding for its optimisation software development program after receiving industry funds to further support the ongoing development of its decision support software for underground mining.

The support has been given by the government of Ontario through the Ontario Centre of Innovation (OCI), an organisation that supports innovators to commercialise new Ontario based technologies. RPM acquired three optimisation software modules in December 2021 from Sudbury-based MIRARCO as part of a three-year collaborative research partnership. MIRARCO is a solution research provider for the mining industry and research arm of Laurentian University.

David Batkin, RPMGlobal’s Head of Product Strategy, said it was terrific to be working with forward thinking, likeminded organisations.

“RPM and MIRARCO have had a great working relationship for the past few years, and it is fantastic to be enjoying this additional support from OCI; it will go a long way to further develop these important optimisation programs,” he said.

MIRARCO President and CEO, Dr Nadia Mykytczuk, added: “This collaboration with RPMGlobal will result in full commercialisation and deployment of tools that will benefit the mining industry. We are really excited to have our teams working together as well as bringing together new academic collaborators from Queen’s University.”

The software modules benefitting from the investment are part of RPM’s Design and Scheduling product portfolio. These modules consist of the Advanced Valuation Module (AVM) and the Ventilation Constraint Module (VCM), both of which extend and complement the functionality of RPM’s mine optimisation software solutions.

The AVM facilitates the generation of optimised underground mine plans that are robust to uncertain product prices and ore grades. The VCM generates optimised underground mine schedules based on ventilation constraints.

The funding provided by OCI, which has a proven track record when it comes to supporting software development, RPM says, will be matched by RPM and will be used to support the multi-year collaboration arrangement between RPM and MIRARCO.

Batkin concluded: “We are very thankful to OCI for this support and for having the foresight and vision to recognise the value that this technology will bring to the underground mining industry.”

Alamos upgrades expansion plans for Island Gold mine, targeting 2,400 t/d

Following further exploration success, Alamos Gold Inc has upgraded its expansion plans for the Island Gold mine in Ontario, Canada.

In the results of the Phase 3+ Expansion Study for Island, the company outlined a larger, more profitable and valuable operation than the Phase III Expansion Study released in 2020. This 2020 iteration looked to expand throughput to 2,000 t/d, from 1,200 t/d, through a shaft and paste plant build, costing $1.07 billion. It would result in output rising to 236,000 oz/y starting in 2025 at mine-site all-in sustaining costs of $534/oz.

Based on the results of the P3+ Expansion Study, the company says it is now proceeding with an expansion of the operation to 2,400 t/d.

This development would see average annual gold production of 287,000 oz, starting in 2026 upon completion of the sinking and equipping of a 1,373-m-deep shaft. This represents a 22% increase from the previous study and a 121% increase from the mid-point of 2022 production guidance of 130,000 oz.

While the growth capital of $756 million and sustaining capital of $777 million are both up from the 2020 study – reflecting the expansion, a larger mineable resource, and industry-wide inflation – the total capital intensity associated with the new plan has decreased 4% to $344/oz reflecting the larger mineable resource with increased ounces per vertical metre.

This infrastructure was all incorporated into the 2020 study with several scope changes to accommodate the 20% increase in production rates to 2,400 t/d including a larger mill expansion and paste plant, as well as accelerated development to support the higher mining rates. The Phase 3+ Expansion also includes 30% more development over the mine life to accommodate the 43% larger mineable resource.

Following the completion of the expansion in 2026, the operation will transition from trucking ore and waste to skipping ore and waste to surface through the new shaft infrastructure, driving production higher and costs significantly lower.

With no significant capital expected to be spent on the company’s other development project, Lynn Lake, until the P3+ Expansion is well underway, Alamos said it is well positioned to fund the expansion internally while generating strong free cash flow over the next several years.

John A McCluskey, President and Chief Executive Officer, said: “Island Gold continues to grow in every sense with our planned Phase 3+ Expansion driving the value of Island Gold to $2 billion at current gold prices. Mineral reserves and resources have increased to 5.1 Moz, supporting the Phase 3+ increase in production rates, which will create a bigger, longer-life, more profitable and valuable operation.

“As a producing mine with a well-understood cost structure, this expansion is low risk from an execution perspective, and has a significantly reduced carbon footprint. The exploration story continues to unfold with a mineral reserve and resource base that has nearly tripled over the past four years, and with the deposit open laterally and down-plunge, we expect Island Gold will be one of the lowest cost and most profitable mines for decades to come.”

Miller sells first BEV converted light utility vehicle to Alamos’ Young-Davidson

Miller Technology has announced the first sale of its new battery-electric utility vehicle for mining to the Young-Davidson gold mine, in Ontario, Canada, owned by Alamos Gold Inc.

The sale, a battery-electric conversion of a diesel-powered light utility vehicle called the Miller BEV Land Cruiser, follows trials of a Miller Land Cruiser and Miller’s ground-up battery-electric vehicle − the Relay − at Young-Davidson.

“Miller Technology’s electric vehicle is a prime example of how Canada is leading the world in green technology, reducing operating costs, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and most importantly improving employee health,” Anthony Rota, the Member of Parliament for Nipissing—Timiskaming, Ontario, said at a press conference to announce the sale. “We are proud to see them serve the world from North Bay in the riding of Nipissing-Timiskaming.”

Light utility vehicles are driven underground to safely move mining staff around the mine site. Historically, these utility vehicles have had diesel engines, which emit greenhouse gas emissions and impairs underground air quality. Miller has developed a conversion kit to exchange the diesel engine for an electric motor, in addition to a number of other mining-specific modifications to the vehicle. These vehicles are often run 24 hours a day, and Miller has patented certain aspects of its IONIC Drive system. Prior to releasing this BEV conversion, Miller had built the Relay platform.

Dan Bachand, the CEO of Miller, said: “With our original build Relay, BEV conversion kit and new projects such as an E-grader, the Ionic Drive System that Miller has developed has arrived at the top of the battery-electric heavy duty-cycle drive systems. I want to thank our team members for their hard work. All of our staff have helped get us to this point.”

He added: “I want to thank Alamos Gold for their courage and commitment to battery-electric vehicles and emissions reductions. This is a great step forward by Alamos Gold to reduce diesel fumes and emissions, helping with employee health, fossil fuel reductions and to slow global warming.”

Léon Grondin-Leblanc, General Manager, Young-Davidson, said: “The Young-Davidson mine’s emission intensity is less than half the industry underground mine average as a result of increased electrification and automation of our lower mine infrastructure, which we completed two years ago, and today’s announcement is yet another step forward.”

MacLean opens doors to R&D facility, shows off latest mining innovations

MacLean has opened the doors to its Research & Training Facility in Sudbury, Ontario, for the first time since acquiring the underground R&D lab in 2018.

The company welcomed industry VIPs to tour its facility and get behind-the-scenes access to the range of MacLean product development spanning mobile equipment electrification, automation and digitalisation.

Guests had the chance tour the ‘Ducky Decline’ to get demonstrations of MacLean ground support installation robotics, as well as video remote control for the secondary reduction application in the underground mining cycle. In addition, the open house also provided the chance for visitors to get up close with a battery-electric version of the company’s latest model of shotcrete sprayer – the SS5 with Quickscan thickness imaging (graphic below) and Chemsave accelerant savings technologies – as well as the latest addition to the MacLean Utility Vehicle product line – the GR5 Grader – purpose-designed for the rigours of the underground environment.

“The pandemic didn’t set us back in terms of pushing forward with product development, but it did force us to delay being able to show the mining world just how much of an innovation engine this underground facility truly is for us,” MacLean President, Kevin MacLean, said. “I was thrilled to be there with Don this week to welcome everybody and deliver the message in person: MacLean is committed to investing in paradigm-changing mining vehicle innovation that helps make the industry safer and more productive.”

Stella Holloway, MacLean Vice President of Northern Ontario Operations, added: “Our Research & Training Facility is also an active collaboration space with the broader industry, through our existing training partnership with Cambrian College’s Centre for Smart Mining and the great work we’re doing training the next generation of mine worker. Now that we have the ability to open our doors and show, not just tell industry colleagues what we’re doing as a mining innovators, it feels great – I look forward to this type of in-person dialogue getting reinstated and ramping up in the months and years to come.”

Maarten van Koppen, MacLean Vice President of Product Management, said the company was cognisant that there are hurdles to broader adoption of electrification, automation and digitalisation across the global mining industry, but he stressed that the upside benefits meant the effort was worthwhile.

“That’s why having this facility is so critical to our ability to deliver mobile equipment solutions that not only solve today’s problems, but also create the foundation for the next generations of mine design and operations around the underground mining globe,” he said.

David Jacques, MacLean VP of Engineering, stated: “The company as a whole persevered through the pandemic to get rigs designed, built, shipped and commissioned, which wasn’t always straightforward. It’s why they call it ‘innovation’ – not just continually improving the way things are currently done, but also asking: is there a different way to tackle this problem that will deliver paradigm-changing safety and productivity dividends? This is how we think at MacLean, and the Research & Training Facility allows us to put that philosophy into action.”

Drilling innovation directs Alamos to golden goods at Island

John A McCluskey, President and CEO of Alamos Gold, tends to look forward, not back, when talking about strategic decisions the Toronto- and New York-listed miner has made during his 18 years heading up the company.

When discussing the acquisition of Richmont Mines, which included the flagship Island Gold Mine asset in Ontario, he allows himself a brief rumination on the market’s first impressions of the deal: “We acquired the asset for around $620 million in November of 2017. The consensus view in the market was we had overpaid for the asset.”

That consensus view considered 1.8 Moz of mineral reserves and resources and production around the 100,000 oz/y mark, among other factors.

“In less than three years, we had Island over the 4 Moz reserve and resource threshold – we’re now nearer to 5 Moz – and the consensus valuation for the asset from analysts covering us is around $1.4 billion.”

That new valuation factors in a production rise – the company is anticipating gold output of 130,000-145,000 oz this year – and long-term growth prospects for the asset. The latter is evidenced by an Island Phase Three Expansion study published last year that envisaged a 2,000 t/d operation (currently 1,200 t/d) able to produce 236,000 oz/y starting in 2025.

While McCluskey says the company was aware of these growth prospects back in November 2017, most market observers will be surprised they have been proven up so quickly after the Richmont Mines transaction.

They probably underestimated what the use of surface directional drilling could do at Island.

Originally leveraged by Richmont Mines’ Chief Geologist and now Island Gold Chief Geologist, Raynald Vincent, back in 2015, the exploration technique has allowed Alamos to successfully step out from and infill holes Richmont and predecessors previously drilled.

Scott R.G. Parsons, VP of Exploration for Alamos, says surface directional drilling, in combination with the exploration team’s understanding on the controls on gold mineralisation at Island and Alamos’ financial backing for exploration, has helped the company grow the asset rapidly.

“The significant resource and reserve growth at Island in the last three years – adding 3 Moz net of 500,000 of mining depletion – was largely driven by surface directional drilling,” he told IM. “We could not have moved the asset forward in such a significant way without it.”

The use of what Parsons says are “standard” surface drill rigs and Devico’s DeviDrill™ steerable wireline core barrels are allowing the company to hit mineralisation far below the mine’s existing underground infrastructure. The DeviDrill tool can make multiple branches from a pilot hole, dramatically reducing both the time spent and the cost of drilling when compared with standard core drilling methods. At the same time, no time is lost on moving the drill rig between branch holes, as the core barrel can be steered from surface to complete the optimal drill patterns.

The DeviDrill tool can make multiple branches from a pilot hole, dramatically reducing both the time spent and the cost of drilling when compared with standard core drilling methods (photo: Devico)

The company has drilled 240 surface directional drill holes at Island for about 200,000 m of drilling using only 27 drill sites, Parsons explained.

“Using conventional surface drilling, the 240 holes would have required significantly more drill sites,” he said.

This would have involved moving the rig more frequently, making the process that much slower and expensive.

Instead, thanks to this directional drilling technique, the company is sitting on an additional 3 Moz of gold resources and reserves garnered in the last three years. This has come with a discovery cost of just $11/oz.

Accuracy, as Devico indicated, is another benefit of this technology.

“Surface directional drilling is not only more effective than standard drilling practices, but we can hit our targets with 1% accuracy,” Parsons added. “So, if we’re drilling a 1,500 m hole, we can typically intersect our target within 15 m from plan, 1,500 m downhole. This predictable drilling spacing is critical for defining a mineral resource with the appropriate confidence level.

“You’d never be able to do that with standard surface drilling.”

This technique is not a silver exploration bullet, though. According to Parsons, it does not work everywhere.

“It really all hinges around the quality of the orebody and our understanding of the deposit and the controls and the mineralisation,” he said. “Knowing we require a certain drill spacing to be able to define inferred mineral resources, we strategically target the down-plunge extensions of the ore shoots.”

At Island, these ore shoots – which are the high-grade portions of the deposit – are laterally extensive in the lateral and vertical sense, Parsons explained.

“With the surface directional drilling, we are able to specifically target these down-plunge extensions,” he said. “With one or two pilot holes and branch patterns, we can evaluate a large area down-plunge and along strike of the existing mineral reserves and resources. In some cases, other gold deposits can have ore shoots that are less predictable, or are not as extensive, so it would be a challenge to apply surface directional drilling without having a strong understanding of the controls of these shoots for targeting.”

And, it should not be forgotten, it requires an investment in exploration that goes beyond simply reserve and resource replacement on an annual basis. Richmont, a much smaller company, was unable to bankroll such a strategy.

Alamos has made a commitment to do this, as evidenced in the 16-year mine life outlined in the Island Phase III study and the $25 million it intends to invest in exploration this year.

The use of surface directional drilling looks set to continue paying off beyond this study, with the company recently drilling its best-ever hole to date by leveraging the technique.

Drill hole MH25-08 – 71.21 g/t Au (39.24 g/t cut) over 21.33 m – in addition to MH25-04 (28.97 g/t Au (26.89 g/t cut) over 21.76 m) have true widths approximately four times greater than the average width of the large high-grade inferred resource block defined up-plunge of them (photo: Alamos Gold)

Drill hole MH25-08 – 71.21 g/t Au (39.24 g/t cut) over 21.33 m – is the hole in question. This hole, in addition to the previously reported MH25-04 (28.97 g/t Au (26.89 g/t cut) over 21.76 m), have true widths approximately four times greater than the average width of the large high-grade inferred resource block defined up-plunge of them. This, the company said, demonstrates the zone has widened in this area, providing even further potential beyond the company’s current growth plans.

“That one – MH25-08 – is the best drill hole ever drilled at Island,” Parsons said. “And that is after 1.3 million metres of drilling and over 7,000 drill holes dating back nearly 100-years.

“That speaks to the potential of this deposit to continue to grow through exploration, and also highlights the prospectivity of the Michipicoten Greenstone Belt.”

More to come

With 27,500 m of surface directional drilling scheduled for 2021 – and only 6,683 m carried out as of May 31 – more of these high-grade intercepts could soon come to the fore.

And Parsons says the company can continue to use surface directional drilling some 500 m below where it is currently drilling down to at Island.

On top of that, the company, having established the necessary underground exploration infrastructure, is equipping its underground drill rigs at Island for directional drilling, with 24,000 m of underground directional drilling planned this year (3,233 m completed as of the end of May).

“This is allowing us to reduce our cost per metre compared with surface directional drilling and allowing us to drill more targets in a shorter amount of time,” Parsons said. “We will continue applying directional drilling technology as long as the orebody is continuing at depth to drill off those ore shoots.”

At Young-Davidson, the company’s other core asset in Ontario, Canada, the company is also making plans to use underground directional drilling.

“One of our plans going into 2022 is to evaluate opportunities to utilise directional drilling from underground exploration drifts established in lower and mid mines at Young-Davidson to target mineralisation down-plunge at depth,” Parsons said.

More broadly, Parsons thinks the company’s exploration team can leverage their understanding of the technology at other assets.

“For us, it is a competitive advantage,” he said. “With a solid geological understanding of the deposit you are looking at and an understanding of the application and the benefits of directional drilling, we can recognise opportunities of what could be occurring at depth where others might not see potential until well into the future after underground infrastructure is established at depth.”

There are obvious cost, time and accuracy benefits to using directional drilling, yet there is another benefit that may get lost along the way.

Without the need to constantly move the surface drill rigs between drill pads, the footprint of these rigs is reduced.

McCluskey says the technology has brought another ESG advantage to Island too.

By being able to quickly drill off more targets and convert these into the resource base, Alamos has been able to think long term with its Island Gold Phase III Expansion and justify the expense of a shaft and paste backfill plant.

This comes with a 35% reduction in emissions compared with using the mine’s existing ramp and diesel-powered truck haulage, he said, explaining that much of the Ontario grid is powered by renewable hydroelectricity.

“This technology has given us the exploration success that has been converted into scale and allowed us to think longer term and afford the infrastructure to make it a ‘greener’ operation,” he said.

With such a long list of benefits, more companies will be looking at directional drilling to prolong the life of their assets and make long-term decisions that make economic and sustainable sense.