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Mining the Northwest: Greenstone anticipates its first gold pour in more than 50 years

New open-pit mine has created more than 400 jobs in Geraldton area
Greenstone Gold's processing plant is being fed mineralized ore.

Equinox Gold’s Greenstone Project, south of Geraldton, is now processing ore. 

The company said ore was introduced into the grinding circuit on April 6 with the first gold pour expected in May.

Commercial production at the northwestern Ontario open-pit operation is expected to be attained some time in this year’s third quarter, the company said in a news release.

The company said commissioning of the processing plant began earlier this year. Flocculant and lime were loaded into the system during the last week of March and the full system was water tested during the first week of April.

More than 1.5 million tonnes of ore is stockpiled and 70,000 tonnes of low-grade ore have been pre-crushed to use for early commissioning feed. Higher grade ore will be fed into the mill as production ramps up to reach a planned throughput rate of 27,000 tonnes per day. 

Equinox said hiring is on track with more than 400 positions filled. All senior plant operators are on board.

Located 275 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay, the open-pit deposit cost more than a billion dollars to build. The mine life is 15 years, with more than than five million ounces of gold expected to be produced in that span.

The Greenstone Project is a 60/40 partnership, by Equinox Gold and Orion Mine Finance Group, respectively. The co-developers acquired the former assets of Premier Gold in late 2020.

“Following 2.5 years of construction, Greenstone is on schedule to commence gold production in the first half of the year, as planned,” said Equinox Gold president-CEO Greg Smith in a statement.

“This is a significant achievement and a testament to the experience of the Greenstone team. Greenstone is a world-class asset, and reaching production will be a pivotal milestone for Equinox Gold. Once operating at full capacity, Greenstone will be our largest and lowest cost-mine. We look forward to first gold in May and continuing to advance the project to commercial production.”

The pit is four kilometres south of the town of Geraldton at the intersection of the Trans-Canada Highway 11 and Provincial Highway 584. Highway 11 had to be realigned around the pit. 

The Greenstone project is on the site of the past-producing Hardrock, MacLeod-Cockshutt and Mosher underground mines, which operated from the late 1930s until about 1970, producing more than two million ounces of gold.

Site rehabilitation and remediation of those former operations and the surrounding land was part of the development.

A new water treatment plant on the mine site treats water from precipitation as well as seepage from old mine tailings in the area, and from the underground workings of these old mines. Previously, water from old tailings and the underground mine seeped straight in Kenogamisis Lake. Now, the water is treated first before being discharged into the lake’s southwest arm.

Equinox's news falls on the heels of IAMGOLD's first gold pour at its open-pit mine near Gogama late last month.