North American Palladium (NAP) has started hoisting material through the new shaft at its Lac des Iles palladium mine in northwestern Ontario.
In an Oct. 21 news release, the Toronto-based miner said the production, service and auxiliary hoists are now fully operational and the skipping system has been successfully tested with full loads of material.
NAP has operated Lac des Iles since 1993. The pit and underground mine is located 90 kilometres northwest of Thunder Bay. It's one of two primary palladium producers in the world.
The company said the commissioning of the ore handling system, including the crusher and loading pocket, is on target for completion later this month. This will mark the completion of the mine's first phase of expansion.
NAP has set a target of increasing its underground mining production rate to more than 3,000 tonnes per day from the underground Offset Zone during the fourth quarter. Next year's plans are to increase the daily mining rate.
"The first skip of our new production shaft marks a very significant milestone for North American Palladium, positioning the company for improved operating margins and a return to profitability in 2014," said Phil du Toit, NAP president and CEO.
The new production shaft is 825 metres deep with a maximum hoisting capacity of 8,000 tonnes per day. It will eliminate the production bottleneck currently imposed by the long truck haulage system. Six metres in diameter and concrete-lined, the shaft has a conventional back leg headframe equipped with a production hoist, a service hoist, and an auxiliary hoist.
In reviewing its overall development strategy, the company announced the deferral of the second phase of its shaft expansion at depth, citing lower cost opportunities may be available while still enabling LDI to achieve production growth of up to 250,000 ounces by 2015.