MILLERTOWN, NF - AUR RESOURCES INC. of Toronto officially opened its 100%-owned Duck Pond copper-zinc underground mine and concentrator in central Newfoundland on Wednesday, May 9. The celebration was attended by almost all of the mines 190 employees plus spouses as well as the whole head office staff, the board of directors, local mayors, MHAs, provincial government officials and other guests. And why not? The day was warm, sunny and windy, and the feast of fresh lobster and shrimp plus fishermans brews, cod-au-gratin and other local specialties was prodigious.
During the official part of the program, Dr. Jim Gill, who was one of the founders of the company 25 years ago and is its president and CEO, said: This is a great day for Aur, for the Duck Pond team and for central Newfoundland. Its the first base metal mine to be developed in Newfoundland in many years. We closed the Louvicourt mine [in Quebecs Abitibi region] in mid-2005, and at the end of 2004 we decided to build this mine. Much Louvicourt equipment lives on here.
It takes a lot of work to build a new mine from scratch, and I would like to thank Ed Stuart [Aurs executive vice-president, mining operations] and Guy Belleau [Duck Ponds mine manager] who have worked tirelessly over the last two years to build this mine. Duck Pond will be an important producer of metals for Aur and for the economy of central Newfoundland, with lots of local spinoff benefits. Plus, the development of this mine has stimulated a lot of exploration by other companies in the central Newfoundland region.
Gill introduced Kim, one of four women working underground at Duck Pond. She was one of 25 recent graduates from the hard rock mining program at Corona College in Grand Falls, Nfld., to be hired on at Duck Pond, and she operates one of the 40-tonne underground haul trucks.
Stuart gave a brief history of the project. Massive sulphides were first discovered at nearby Tally Pond in 1973 as part of a FALCONBRIDGE project by prospectors Alan and Ted Keats, who with the rest of their family were named the Bill Dennis Prospectors of the Year at the PDAC convention this March. The property was later prospected by PDAC past president Peter Dimmel, and Gerry Squires who now works for MESSINA MINERALS. THUNDERMIN RESOURCES optioned the property in 1999 from Falconbridge and took on QUEENSTON MINING as the joint venture partner, and they completed a feasibility study in 2001. However, with the low price of base metals at that time, the partners were forced to sell. Aur bought it for $6 million in March 2002.
Aur reworked the feasibility study, including a re-estimation of reserves and resources. The board approved the building of a mine for $92 million in December 2004.
Permitting and construction moved quickly, according to Stuart (see feature in CMJ August 2006), and the mine was essentially complete by December 2006, on schedule but over budget at US$115 million.
The first ore went through the mill in January, commercial production was achieved in March and the first concentrate was shipped in April. The mine and mill anticipate achieving the full production rate of 1,800 tonnes/day by the end of June. On average the ore reserves grade 3.29% Cu, 5.68% Zn, 59.3 g/t Ag and 0.86 g/t Au.
Duck Pond will produce two concentrates that, together, will contain about 41 million lb of copper, 76 million lb of zinc, 574,000 oz of silver and 5,000 oz of gold each year, for a life of 6.2 years, based on current reserves. Many at the opening expressed the hope that more ore would be proven up, to extend the life.
The concentrator consists of grinding in a SAG and ball mill, flotation and dewatering, and was said to be one of the worlds most highly automated. The concentrates are hauled by truck to a ship-loading facility at St. Georges on the west coat of Newfoundland. The first ship was loaded and set sail in April.
Concentrator tails are used for underground paste backfill, and the rest are deposited underwater in a submerged tailings pond. Aur enlisted the help of the MINING ASSOCIATION OF CANADA in steering Duck Pond through the new federal legislation for depositing tailings in a natural pond.
Duck Pond is Aurs only Canadian mine; its other two mine operationsAndacolla and Quebrada Blancaare in Chile, and its exploration projects are in Latin America. However, Aur developed Duck Pond because the economics at the high grade deposit were compelling, and Gill couldnt be happier now that Duck Pond is producing, judging by the grin on his face throughout the opening.
Hes not the only one. Said the major of Buchans, Dorm Corbett, As a neighbour of Duck Pond, its obvious why this is a special day for Buchans. Our special thanks go to Guy Belleau and the management team who have always been prepared to sit and discuss with us in a respectful way, so that all our concerns were dealt with. We are delighted that Aur Resources has now set the bar for resource development in this area, with training, local hiring and support for local businesses. That is the challenge that others will have to meet.
A feature of the mine is that almost all of the employees are Newfoundlanders, many of whom are returning to the region after working away for many years. The mayor of the tiny nearby community of Millertown, George Piercey, graduated from grade school in Buchans and worked at the Buchans mine until it closed in the 1970s, and then moved on to work in Goose Bay, Labrador. He is back to the area and has worked as an underground electrician at Duck Pond for the last two years. At the opening he said, Its a great pleasure for Millertown to congratulate Aur. Every time you see concentrate going along the road now, thats part of us. Even though the mine has a life of six years, we now have a mill that can carry on.
Were a small community, but now, because of Duck Pond, people can work here, stay at home, get married and have a family here. Its been twenty-odd years since weve had full employment for people with post-secondary education. Now we have provided work for 35 students here this summer. Our high level of employment here is thanks to Aur.
Aur did some good things for us before they were even making money. They have supported the local fire department, the Red Indian Heritage Society and other local programs. For a company that was just spending money, thats pretty good. It should be even better now that theyre making money.