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Falco plans $700M mine investment (10/02)

By Maggie Riopelle Falconbridge Ltd. plans to invest more than $700 million in its nickel-copper Montcalm project near Timmins.

By Maggie Riopelle


Falconbridge Ltd. plans to invest more than $700 million in its nickel-copper Montcalm project near Timmins.


Falconbridge is expected to make a production decision in October once the feasibility study and public consultations have been completed. The Montcalm site, once in full operation, is expected to employ 145 people.


“If we start the mine soon, and we could make a production decision later this year, then we expect the mine will be operational until 2011,” explains John McDonald, Montcalm project manager. “Over the life of the mine we estimate expenses to be $705 million. There has already been $40 million spent on the site. It is difficult to estimate the revenues since that will be based on metal prices, but obviously we wouldn’t start the project if we didn’t expect our revenues to be more than our expenses.”


The company expects to mine at the rate of 750,000 tonnes per year over the expected eight-and-a-half-year life of the mine. The company plans to process 5.6 million tonnes of mining reserves with a grading of 1.49 per cent nickel and 0.71 per cent copper.


Upgrades to the Falconbridge Kidd site are also in the plan, as it is not equipped to process nickel ore. The company will process both the nickel and copper in Timmins. Smelting of the nickel concentrate will be done at the Sudbury smelter and copper concentrate at the Kidd site.


However, the project has been slowed due to problems accessing the property. The site is located in the Groundhog River watershed, which is protected by the government as a potential provincial park area.


“The application has taken a lot longer,” McDonald says. “We had previous talks with the ministries involved and they had a site visit last June. At the time, they didn’t mention any concerns so we continued with our planning.”


McDonald says that all environmental concerns have been reviewed and Falconbridge has a plan to protect the area and mine with little environmental impact.


In fact, the mine will be transporting all mine tailings from the area and depositing it in an existing tailing management area currently used by the Kidd metallurgical site.


As well, mine water pumped out of the site will be cleaned of impurities at a temporary water treatment system, then pumped back into the Ground River, as per all government regulations.


“We plan to pump water out of the mine and have it treated before discharging it, which is in compliance with all regulations,” says McDonald. “The area is flat, but once we get to the river there is a valley, so we will make sure there is no eroding by putting stones along the edge. Right now it is just a question of access. We are not going to disrupt the area and we will do some landscaping so the drainage system looks like a natural creek flowing into the river.”


The company is hoping the government will approve the drainage system application shortly.