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Gold company reaps the rewards from spring cleaning

West Red Lake Gold Mines fashions gold bar from ‘trapped’ mill material
West Red Lake Gold president-CEO Shane Williams holds the first gold bar poured at the Madsen mill under company ownership. (Company distributed photo)

West Red Lake Gold Mines has poured a gold bar using material recovered from a cleanup of the Madsen mill outside Red Lake.

The company reports the bar was poured June 8 using the refinery in the Madsen mill, which had not operated in 18 months.

The Madsen mine and mill were placed on care and maintenance by the previous operator, Pure Gold Mining, when production was halted production in October 2022 at the outset of that company entering CCAA protection.

In May, West Red Lake began a mill cleanup and gold recovery program after seeing evidence of “installation and operational missteps” in certain areas of the mill. Gold had been caught in “physical traps” instead of making it to the mill.

West Red Lake acquired the shuttered asset, along with 47 square kilometres of land outside Red Lake, in June 2023. The plan is to restart the mine in the second half of 2025.  

In a June 13 news release, the company said a preliminary mill cleanup late last year recovered 415 troy ounces of gold valued at US$750,000 from material trapped in the mill’s circuits. It prompted a second cleanup in the ball and semi-autogenous grinding (SAG) mills. Gold was found trapped in “ill-fitting liners in the ball mill, in the SAG mills, and in uncleaned filters."

“All of these would have impacted the previous operator’s reconciliation numbers, and all can be minimized or eliminated through installation of proper equipment and mill operations expertise.”

Longshot Diamond Drilling was contracted to do the cleanup.

The recovered coarse gold was poured into a gold bar at the refinery. The rest of the collected material, containing gold fines, will now be sent off-site for processing.

“Seeing the refinery in action was another checkmark on our list of operational readiness requirements,” said West Red Lake Mines president-CEO Shane Williams in a statement. 

“Starting or restarting a mine requires reliable operations from multiple facilities and systems. With over 100 employees at site, constant underground development and drilling, and multiple capital projects underway or in planning, we are establishing the systems that support smooth mine operations. From my experience building and commissioning mines, I know what a difference it makes to a new operation to have such systems in place prior to startup.”

The Madsen mine, a past-producing operation, entered commercial production under the Pure Gold flag in August 2021. Within a year, the Vancouver company ran into gold production and cash problems, forcing the company to halt operations and enter CCAA protection in late October of 2022. The majority of the workforce of 271 was let go. 

West Red Lake emerged the winner in a court-supervised sales process.