While I was taking a couple weeks vacation, it seems three mining projects were taking steps toward development. That is very good news for Canadian miners, and I think an indication that metal prices are recovering and the industry can again move forward.
Richmont Mines of Rouyn-Noranda, QC, has begun dewatering the underground Francoeur gold mine in preparation for a restart of production in 2011. Drifts will be excavated to reach the West Zone from which 35,000 oz of gold will be recovered annually for four years. An underground exploration and definition drilling program is also planned, and if successful, mine life will be extended.
The company's internal pre-feasibility study indicates that the Francoeur project has probable reserves of 615,664 tonnes grading 6.91 g/t Au. Total pre-production capital costs are estimated at a very reasonable $14.8 million.
Century Mining of Blaine, WA, continues to inch toward restarting production at its underground Lamaque gold mine. The Lamaque mine is one of two at the company's Sigma-Lamaque Complex near Val d'Or, QC. Mining was temporarily suspended in July 2008. Century wants to restart production at about 2,000 t/d with an average grade of 4.74 g/t Au. Plans call for an 11-year mine life. The mine is currently permitted for 1,200 t/d.
Century is moving closer to its goal with the recent announcement that it has arranged a US$25-million prepaid gold facility and is undertaking a $20-million equity issue. The company plans to restart mining as soon as the financing is completed.
Readers will recall that the best place to find gold is in a gold mine. That is certainly true of the two projects above. Something similar might be said for finding copper, as well.
Copper Mountain Mining of Vancouver is optimizing its plans for the former Similco copper mine near Princeton, BC. The company is hoping to develop a conventional open pit and build a 35,000-t/d mill. Production of copper in concentrate with gold and silver credits could start in mid-2011 and continue for 17 years. Output would be 100 million lb of copper annually. Proven and probable reserves total 211 million tonnes grading 0.361% Cu.
Copper Mountain's recent deal with Japan's Mitsubishi Materials Corp. is bringing production closer to reality. Mitsubishi has agreed to acquire a 25% interest in the project for $28.75 million. The foreign company has agreed to seek a $250-million project loan and to purchase all of the copper concentrate the reopened Similco mine produces.
For three Canadian mines, the news this week is excellent. I hope they are only the first of many in the months ahead.