Mining crews at the world’s deepest copper and zinc mine are about to travel even deeper, thanks to a commitment from Xstrata Copper to invest $121 million in Timmins’ underground Kidd Mine.
The move will extend the mining zone at Mine D from 9,100 feet to 9,500 feet, providing an additional 3.4 million tonnes of ore at a grade of 1.48 per cent copper, 6.22 per cent zinc, 0.28 per cent lead and 80 grams per tonne of silver.
“Over the last few years, we’ve been able to demonstrate that we can mine safely and efficiently at these extreme depths, and that was always a concern,” says Tom Semadeni, general manager of the Kidd Mine. “We’ve been able to demonstrate that it’s possible, and it’s going quite well.”
The move will allow the company to sustain their local current rate of mining and processing at 2.7 million tonnes per year; otherwise, production would have begun to dip in 2010. The mine produces an annual total of 45,000 tonnes of copper and 130,000 tonnes of zinc. This new investment will also allow for the mine life to be extended by one year, to 2017.
A prior expansion of the Mine D project was completed in 2006 at a cost of $664 million, allowing for production areas to be established at 8,800 feet.
In recent years, Xstrata had begun extending the current mining level from 8,800 feet to 9,100 feet, with a rough cost of $27 million. At nearly $100 million more to extend an additional 400 feet, the added cost stems largely from the need to establish considerable infrastructure to allow for the construction of another loading pocket area at the 9,600-foot level.
Nearly 75 full-time jobs will be added throughout the construction phase, which has already begun and is slated to be complete in 2010. The Kidd Mine and its associated Kidd Metallurgical complex employ a combined total of nearly 2,200 employees and contractors.
Presently, contractors are undertaking development work for ramping and drifting, and work for ventilation raises. Electrical and mechanical construction work is being done to outfit the new loading pocket. Utilities are also being extended for key infrastructure such as power and dewatering systems, as well as instrumentation and radio systems.
A number of northeastern Ontario contractors are already reaping the rewards.
Timmins-based Dumas Mining is the primary contractor, with Earlton’s Nor-Arc Steel Fabricators are handling the loading pocket work, while Genivar is performing some of the engineering. Electrical work is being done by Timmins’ Monarch Automation.
Meanwhile, the Val-d’Or-based Orbit Garant Drilling is undertaking some diamond drilling to continue proving up the ore to help develop a mining plan.
As work continues, officials are already looking to determine whether the justification exists to continue pushing even deeper still. Due to be complete by the end of 2008, feasibility studies are underway to see whether mining zones can be pushed to as far as 9,900 feet, marking the entire length of the existing shaft.
Timmins Mayor Tom Laughren hails the move as a great benefit for the town at a time where strong mineral prices are helping to buoy its financial fortunes.
“I think it’s great news, as it helps from a Timmins perspective to carry on the current mining boom, and from a processing perspective, to keep feeding the Kidd Metallurgical complex.”
With the record depths seen at the mine and the expertise that will be required to push farther, Laughren hopes it will help to place Timmins on the international stage as a node for advanced mining knowledge.