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Is there new life for Kidd Mine?

Scheduled for 2022 closure, new ore discovery spurs Glencore to drill deep at legendary Timmins mine
Kidd Mine
Kidd Operations has confirmed it's exploring ways to extend the life of the copper-zinc mining complex in Timmins. (Glencore photo)

Kidd Operations has confirmed it is investing a lot of time and effort to try to find a way to extend the life of the massive underground Glencore Kidd copper-zinc mining complex in Timmins.

Mark Furlotte, Kidd Operations general manager, responded to Northern Ontario Business and Sudbury Mining Solutions Journal to reveal the company has set up exploration drilling to target mineral zones deeper than three kilometres. 

Furlotte’s comments follow the recent Big Event Mining Expo held in Timmins where the chief topic of conversation was what the future might hold for the Kidd Operations deep mine and how the company is planning to extend the life of the mine beyond the expected shutdown in 2022.

The mine is 25 kilometres north of Timmins on Highway 655.

“Kidd is investing significant time and efforts into this exploration project to see if we can extend the mine life. But as everyone in the mining industry knows, defining an extension of a mine requires significant time and drilling metres, so we don’t expect an answer any time soon.”

The plan to extend the mine life was considered by some to be the worst kept secret in Timmins. Even newly elected Timmins Mayor George Pirie commented in January that the city was hoping for some positive news.

“We do not know whether or not Glencore will be able to extend the life of the Kidd Creek Mine. We know if they are not successful the community stands to lose over $100 million in annual payroll and over $50 million in annual goods and services spend by 2022,” said Pirie in his inaugural state-of-the-city speech.

As it stands now, the official word is that the mine is still slated to close in 2022, based on the premise that the mine is so deep it is not economical to recover the ore from deeper than 10,000 feet.  

The Kidd Mine is currently the deepest base metal mine in the world with active mining taking place at 9,600 feet and the shaft bottom is currently at 9,889 feet, more than three kilometres deep. 

That information was confirmed by Kidd Mine operations manager Ryan Roberts, speaking at the Big Event gala dinner in early June.

Once owned by Texas Gulf Sulphur, exploration drilling at the Kidd site began in the November 1963 with the deposit being revealed in April 1964.

Kidd was first put into production as an open pit in 1966 with an estimate of producing 25 million tonnes of ore. 

The most recent figures indicate the mine has produced far beyond that, with more than 150 million tonnes of copper and zinc ore, according to Ryan Roberts, Kidd Mine operations manager, speaking at the early June mining show.

He also commented on the depth of the mine and the challenges of transporting work materials to the bottom of the mine as well as transporting ore out of the mine. Driving down the ramp from surface to the 9,600-foot level is a 24-kilometre trip that takes an hour and 15 minutes.

Getting the ore to surface is not a simple task. From 9600 level, the ore has to be hoisted through No. 4 shaft up to 4,900. Then the ore is shipped by conveyor to the skips at No. 2 shaft where it is hoisted from 4,900 to surface.

The 2022 shutdown timeline was based on Kidd’s own study to reduce costs and improve operational efficiencies with such things as ventilation-on-demand (VOD) and remotely operated heavy equipment such as LHDs and haulage trucks.

Pirie, the former CEO of Placer Dome Canada, said his conversations with mine officials in late 2018 indicated there is a significant ore zone below the 10,000 level that he described as “mantle breaking.”

“That means it goes to great depth,” Pirie explained. “What I meant by that is that it is a classic hydrothermal vent. The mineralization is there and that again was confirmed with the new manager.”

Sources had indicated that Orbit Garant Drilling Services set up exploration drills at three cutouts on the 9,800 level to search out and define the new ore zone.

“We can confirm an exploration program targeting mineralization below three kilometres had commenced in 2018. Exploration drilling is being completed from underground installations on the 9,800 level,” said Furlotte.

He added that the current work is focussed on completing the 2019 exploration program, which he said is approximately 17,000 metres of drilling.

Sources also revealed there was ramp development taking place with a jumbo crew proceeding below 9,800. Furlotte confirmed this.  

“The 2019 exploration program also includes underground development that will extend the ramp from 9,800 level to 9,900 level, which provides an additional drilling location.”

Len Gillis is the editor of Sudbury Mining Solutions Journal, a sister publication of Northern Ontario Business. Contact him at