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Mining the Northwest: Construction progresses at Geraldton-area mine project

$1.5-billion Greenstone Gold pit project will revitalize former mine properties and clean up historic contaminants

Construction of a new mine near Geraldton is well underway with ongoing drilling and blasting for the pit operation and to reroute a major provincial highway.

Greenstone Gold Mines has been providing regular updates on the progress being made at the site, four kilometres south of the town and 275 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay. The company is a joint venture between Equinox and Orion Mine Finance.

The mine is being built at the intersection of Highway 11 (the TransCanada Highway) and Highway 584. The groundbreaking for the mine project took place last October.  

During May, the company said contractors continued with earthworks for the mine waste disposal facility. Steel erection was underway for the processing and water treatment plants.

Through the winter and spring, there’s been blasting for foundations and to re-route Highway 11 around where the pit will be excavated. Power lines and roads on the mine site also being constructed.

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Among the major buildings to be constructed are the crushing and processing plants, a 46-megawatt power plant, an administration building, a water treatment plant and the mine waste facility, along with associated mechanical shops and on-site road infrastructure.

The area under construction were the sites of historic underground gold mining operations. Equinox and Orion are spending millions on seepage collection system. It involves a series of collection ponds to direct mine water, surface runoff and contaminated water from the old mines and the waste piles to a central collection pond and effluent water treatment plant. 

Construction activity around the site involves the use of heavy equipment such as zoom booms, cranes, drills, excavators, skidders, wood chippers, bulldozers, tri-axle haul trucks, articulated trucks and loaders.

Enbridge Gas is also conducting their own blasting program. The natural gas provider will be servicing Greenstone Gold with a 13-kilometre pipeline starting from Enbridge’s station next to the TransCanada pipeline, north of Geraldton.

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The overall $1.5-billion project will provide an estimated 1,800 construction jobs and 500 mining-related jobs over a 14-year mine life, producing 5.5 million ounces of gold in that span. 

As the pit is being dug, ore will be stockpiled for processing until the switch is made from construction to operations. The first gold pour is slated for the first half of 2024.

Related construction nearby involves building a new Ministry of Transportation patrol yard, a Hydro One electrical substation and distribution lines, the Hydro One Geraldton Operations Centre and a new Ontario Provincial Police Detachment.

The Greenstone Gold Project is being built on or near three historic underground gold mining operations - Hardrock, MacLeod-Cockshutt and Mosher - which collectively produced more than two million ounces between 1930 and 1970. The site was rehabilitated during the 1990s.

Thunder Bay’s Premier Gold began assembling the land package in 2008 when it was called the Hardrock Project. The junior miner began drilling and published a resource estimate.

Premier later entered into an ill-fated joint venture relationship with Centerra Gold that brought the mine project to a standstill at one point. But during that period the project received its provincial and federal environmental assessment approvals and three impact benefit agreements with area First Nations were signed.

The mine project was revived when Premier and Centerra cashed out and sold their individual project stakes to Equinox Gold and Orion Mine Finance, which formed a 60-40 joint venture.