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Lake Shore Gold ramping up work at Bell Creek Mine in 2020

Planned roadwork could have a $3-million impact on the mine, says manager

Work at Bell Creek is being ramped up next year, according to Lake Shore Gold country manager David Bernier.

At the Timmins Chamber of Commerce's Inside their Business event, Bernier gave an update on the operations at Lake Shore Gold, a subsidiary of Pan American Silver. 

He talked about what's happening at their two sites in the city, the potential impact of closing down the main highway for road reconstruction, and more. 

In Timmins, Lake Shore Gold has Timmins West Mine and the Bell Creek Mine and mill in Porcupine. 

With Bell Creek growing every year, Bernier said there's opportunity to continue that. 

“We’re looking to increase the capacity of the mill, because we’ve made some adjustments just due to current economics where we can actually process more. The focus of our growth next year will be on the mill, a small expansion, as well as growing the Bell Creek Mine,” he said. 

In 2020, he said a 20 per cent increase is forecast for Bell Creek. 

"And we’re actually going to lay off Timmins West a little bit. Timmins West has been a mine that’s been under immense pressure to produce during Bell Creek’s growth, so with that it’s a bit strained, so we’re going to dial down Timmins West a bit and then actually ramp up Bell Creek next year,” he said.

Earlier this year, the company celebrated the official opening of the Bell Creek shaft.

The two-year, $100-million investment expanded an inoperable 300-metre shaft to a 1,080-metre production shaft. 

“It’s been a game-changer for the mine. It’s helped lower the cost enormously," Bernier said.

"The plant was designed for about 4,000 tonnes a day when we had the opening. Since then we’ve made minor improvements and tweaks to that and we actually just had a day of 5,000 tonnes removed from the mine, which was a record. Everybody’s fully engaged there. It’s exciting for Bell Creek."

At both mines, the current life is into 2025, said Bernier.

“As we diamond drill, we hope that that’s something that just keeps moving,” he said.

There are a number of projects that he said they're also trying to work on, but haven't had the resources to do so before.

"There’s a couple of things that we’re looking at that are in our land holdings that we’re trying to move forward next year,” he said, adding they won't be doing any rock or ground work.

To get the ore from Timmins West to the mill in Porcupine, it's hauled by truck across town. He said it averages between 2,600 and 3,000 tonnes a day. 

With a massive Connecting Link road construction project along Algonquin slated to close a section of the corridor starting next year, Bernier said he wants to make sure the city looks at all the traffic rerouting options. 

He has asked their trucking company for an estimate on what the extra costs could be to detour for the multi-year project. 

“We haven’t received that yet, but I’m guessing that it’ll be in the neighbourhood of $1.50 to $2 a tonne," he said, which he estimates would be about a $3-million impact.

“We just want to make sure that all of the alternatives are looked at. If there’s an opportunity to leave a couple lanes open, then that’s obviously something that would work better for our company as well as others that use it," said Bernier, noting companies like EACOM and Newmont Goldcorp also use the stretch of road for business. 

While he's supportive of the roadwork, he said the companies pay extra for every tonne that's detoured. 

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