The Reed copper project, located in northern Manitoba midway between Flin Flon and Snow Lake, is within the Grass River Provincial Park and adjacent to provincial Highway 39. In fact, the mine is within a home-run ball from the highway on one side and one of the Park’s larger lakes on the other and because of its proximity to those sensitive neighbours, great care had to be taken when designing the elongated site.
With only 325m of land separating the highway from the lake, designers were challenged to squeeze a number of elements into the property including the mine’s portal, a polishing pond, a waste rock storage pad, cold storage, plus the essential infrastructure of power and water for administration and construction camp facilities.
And what makes this project even more remarkable is the timeframe involved. Construction started on March 14, 2012, and after encountering several challenges along the way such as environmental scrutiny due to its location in a provincial park, ground water and poor ground conditions, the first ore was brought to surface in July 2013 and the project advanced to mine status after achieving commercial production on March 31, 2014.
Understandably, both Hudbay and VMS Ventures are proud of their achievements in such a short and accident-free period of time and as Neil Richardson, VMS Ventures’ COO says: “We are very pleased to see the Reed copper project advance to mine status and achieve commercial production. The mine continues to advance towards full production and has operated without any lost time accidents.”
Richardson says the focus will always remain on safety and continued ramp development while establishing lateral infrastructure headings and ore development.
John Roozendaal, President and Director, VMS Ventures, talks further about his company’s involvement in Manitoba and says: “At VMS Ventures we’re focused primarily on acquiring, exploring and developing copper-zinc-gold-silver massive sulphide deposits in the Flin Flon-Snow Lake Belt of Manitoba and mining-friendly jurisdictions elsewhere in the world.
“Our project property portfolio consists of the Reed Copper Project, McClarty Lake Project (45km west-southwest of Snow Lake), Sails Lake Project (30km east of Snow Lake), Puella Bay Project (30km southeast of Snow Lake) and Morton Lake Project (25km west of Snow Lake).”
Outside of the Snow Lake camp, Roozendaal says VMS also holds sulphide prospective properties near the past-producing Fox Lake and Ruttan copper-zinc mines, located near the communities of Lynn Lake and Leaf Rapids in northern Manitoba. It has also optioned the Black Creek property in the Sudbury mining camp.
VMS Ventures also owns approximately 23.9% of North American Nickel Inc. (NAN), another resource development company that has 100%-owned properties in Maniitsoq, Greenland, Sudbury, Ontario and in Thompson in Manitoba’s nickel belt.
History of Reed Copper
VMS Ventures discovered the Reed Copper deposit in 2007. Most present and past-producing mines in the region are situated in the exposed part of the belt. Much less exploration has been done in the buried portion of the belt, and it is here that VMS saw a potential opportunity.
In October 2007, the company announced the discovery of a near-surface zone of high-grade copper mineralization at the Reed Lake property in the Flin Flon-Snow Lake greenstone belt in central Manitoba.
The copper-rich intersection was achieved in the second drill hole testing a coincident airborne (VTEM) EM and magnetic anomaly. The drill hole recorded 10.50 metres of 11.19% copper within 43.05 metres of 4.38% copper. Drill programs since that time have delineated 2.55 million tonnes of 4.52% copper in the indicated category.
In July 2010, VMS signed a Joint Venture Agreement with Hudbay Minerals covering the copper-rich Reed Lake Discovery Zone. The discovery of the Reed Copper deposit has been based on the exploration of a conceptual idea that highly productive volcanic rocks of the Flin Flon-Snow Lake greenstone belt are present beneath younger dolomite and sandstone cover rocks. The concept was proven correct with the discovery at Reed.
As a result, Reed Copper attracted worldwide attention due to its impressive copper grade which was more than twice the average for the belt.
The role of technology
To aid in the early discoveries, modern airborne and ground geophysical technologies were used along with geochemical testing to explore rock packages that are often covered by a veneer of Paleozoic carbonates, sandstones and glacial till.
Although most of the area of the greenstone belt is exposed, the area on the south side is completely buried beneath much younger sedimentary rocks which are completely unrelated to the rocks hosting the ore bodies. Thus, new technology for Reed Copper was used in the form of helicopter time domain electromagnetics (TEM) to “see through” the younger rocks and explore the Flin Flon greenstone rocks beneath.
Geotech Ltd.’s Versatile Time Domain Electromagnetic (VTEM) system was selected for this crucial part of the job. VTEM is able to cover large amounts of ground quickly, and in most cases, the electromagnetic (EM) anomalies identified by the system may be drilled immediately.
In the past, Roozendaal says EM anomalies detected from the air needed to be precisely located on the ground before being drilled. This required expensive and time-consuming surface geophysical surveys. VMS was one of the first companies in the Flin Flon belt to drill directly from airborne data, which allowed it to fly, drill and discover all in the same year.
The use of airborne electromagnetic and magnetic geophysical surveys, coupled with Mobile Metal Ions soil geochemistry, has proven to be a rapid and cost-effective method of assessing VMS properties in the belt. The definition and drill testing of a coincident EM-magnetic anomaly on the Reed property led to the discovery of the Reed Copper deposit, says Roozendaal.
The discovery of Reed Copper was positive news for the local communities because the last remaining mine at nearby Snow Lake and a large mine in Flin Flon were declining in production in 2007 – the same time the Reed Copper discovery was made.
The two mines were enormous contributors to the Manitoban economy, so Reed Copper was a welcome announcement and will help contribute to the future of Northern Manitoba.
The life of the mine is predicted to peak at approximately six years; however, underground exploration will continue with the potential to add new tonnes throughout the mine’s life.
Typically, the deposits of this belt can grow in size as a result of exploration, averaging two to three times their original tonnage. As a result, the size of this deposit may grow as well, thereby extending the life of mine.
FACTS AND FIGURES
The $72- million capex project is a joint venture between Hudbay Minerals (70% – operator) and VMS Ventures (30%)
• The Reed mine will be a ramp access mine to three steeply dipping ore zones with a reserve of 2.16 million tonnes at 3.83% copper.
• Averaging 60% of full production tonnage (1,300 tonnes per day), having operated at 792 tonnes per day in the first quarter of 2014.
• During the first quarter Reed mined 71,236 tonnes of ore at a copper grade of 1.92% and a zinc grade of 2.14% from a combination of ore development and longhole stope mining.
• The project has invested $66 million to the end of Q1, 2014 and approximately $4 million of project capital will be spent as sustaining capital over the life of the mine.
• Sale of copper and zinc concentrates will start to pay back the Company’s project loan and advance VMS towards cash flow.
• During the month of March, development advanced 288 metres or 9.3 metres per day, for a total of 3,215 metres project to date.
• 27,407 tonnes of ore were mined in March.
*Information for the Special Report provided by John Roozendaal, President and Director, VMS Ventures.