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Barrick transitions to underground-only mining at Hemlo

Open-pit operations will cease by month’s end

Open-pit mining at Barrick Gold’s Hemlo complex will end later this month, making way for the gold miner to transition to a purely underground operation.

In an Oct. 13 news release, the company said just 200,000 tonnes of ore remain at the pit, located 350 kilometres east of Thunder Bay, and that will be mined out by the end of October.

Meanwhile, the transition to underground-only operations is already underway.

“The open-pit crew has already worked with the contractor in digging a new portal from within the open pit, which will open up new mining fronts in the underground mine, creating more flexibility and allowing the underground to ramp up throughput,” the company said in the release.

As part of the transition, the 70-plus open-pit employees will be transferred to the underground contractor, Barminco.

Since mining started in 1989, the open pit has produced more than 2.8 million ounces of gold.

Though it was originally used to produce blasted rock to backfill the mine’s underground stopes, it was eventually established as a separate division, the company noted.

“In 2013, the David Bell mine closed, leaving the open pit and the Williams underground mine as the chief sources of ore for the mill feed,” the company noted. “Over the next six years, the open pit ramped up and became the primary source of ore for Hemlo.”

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Overall, the Hemlo complex has produced more than 21 million ounces of gold in its more than 30 years of operation.

“It’s been a great run and I am honored to have worked with such a great team,” said Adam Foulstone, Hemlo’s general manager, in the release.

“The last years of the mine were very challenging, but we completed the work with zero lost-time injuries, a testament to the commitment and professionalism of our people.”

Barrick also said the mine held a dedication ceremony on Oct. 5 to unveil the new portal sign honouring long-time employee Jim Harasym, the open-pit manager, who was instrumental in the success of the project.