By MAGGIE RIOPELLE
Falconbridge Ltd. is digging deep for its $640-million Mine D project in Timmins.
The company hopes the copper/zinc mine, which will be the deepest base metal mine in the world, will be in production by the third quarter of 2004.
The company is presently in Phase 1 of the project, which will see the ground mined to the 8,800-foot level.
The second phase calls for mining from the 8,800-foot level to the 10,200-foot level. However, this will depend on further studies as it is difficult to determine the size and location of the ore at present, says Dan Gignac, general manager, Kidd mining division, Falconbridge Ltd.
“This project is vital to the life of the mine and is expected to extend the life well beyond 2007,” Gignac says. “It should add 15 to 20 years, depending on Stage 2 of the project.”
Plans to have Mine D in production by 2004 are on schedule, he says, noting Falconbridge hopes to start mining the site as soon as possible. The company is facing hard economic times with low base metal prices, high energy rates and the large capital project in the works.
“We have the burden of a major capital project, plus low metal prices, which are prohibiting us from generating cash flow,” he notes. “We have to go to the corporation, Falconbridge Noranda, to sustain the mine and we are under pressure to improve our bottom line. We are working extremely hard to improve our bottom line.”
It is estimated that the project will invest $44 million annually into the Timmins economy, once in production, for an estimated six years. The annual investment includes $30 million on labour, $10 million on materials and $4 million on equipment rentals.
Provincially, the company estimates that it will inject $180 million into the economy annually over the same period.
“In the grand scheme of things we are on schedule,” says Michel Dufresne, Mine D project director. “Some of the work has been accelerated, though we are a bit behind on the ramp development. Once the site is in production, Kidd will have an estimated output of 2.4 million tonnes mined annually for all its operations in Timmins. Obviously, there are no lack of challenges in building a mine to those depths, but it is going to be quite an achievement for Falconbridge and Timmins.”
Proper ventilation and cooling at those depths is one of the challenges. At that level underground temperatures can easily rise as high as 30 degrees Celsius.
A cooling plant on surface or frozen stopes with air flowing through to cool the site are two potential options for cooling underground. The options are being reviewed over the next six to 12 months.
As far as the site progress, the shaft location is presently at the 6,200-foot level with a goal of reaching the 10,200-foot level, and the ramp location is at the 7,700-foot level with a goal of reaching the 8,800-foot level.
Falconbridge has also decided to follow a pastefill system in Mine D. In a pastefill system, a mixture of tailings and cement fill the areas already mined so that production can continue in other areas.
A plant has been developed on surface to create concrete to save costs and to be more efficient at meeting the demands of the mine, he concludes.