By Marla Tomlinson
Falconbridge Ltd.'s purchase of the Montcalm deposit may pave the way for new mining possibilities for the Timmins area, says John McDonald, project manager with Falconbridge.
In May of this year, Falconbridge bought the complete Montcalm deposit, located about 55 kilometres west of the Kidd metallurgical division (Met), from Outokumpu.
Although it is primarily a nickel deposit, cobalt and copper will also be mined.
Originally, Falconbridge had decided to sign with Outokumpu for the right to earn a 50 per cent interest in Montcalm, and also completed a conceptual study during the year. However, Falconbridge opted instead to purchase the entire deposit.
"The decision to purchase 100 per cent of Montcalm will provide Falconbridge greater flexibility to optimize the integration of this operation with our other nickel operations," says Warren Holmes, senior vice-president for Canadian mine operations, Falconbridge Ltd. "This is a good investment opportunity for Falconbridge as it fits well with our existing operations and supports our growth strategies."
Falconbridge purchased Montcalm for $14 million and is currently completing an advanced exploration project, McDonald says.
"The project, as it stands now, will last approximately six months," McDonald says. "That involves underground drifting with some raising, drilling, engineering and designing to convert one of the copper/zinc circuits at the Met site into a nickel/copper circuit."
Right now the Met site is a copper/zinc circuit. McDonald says if the company pursues this project to convert one of the divisions to accommodate nickel processing, new doors will be open in the Timmins area for other nickel deposits to have access to local processing. Previously, the cost of transporting the unprocessed ore to Sudbury made nickel mining uneconomical.
The Met site, upon conversion, would take the raw ore and convert it into nickel concentrate. From there, concentrate would be processed at the company's smelter. This project could contribute 8,000 tonnes annually to Falconbridge's Sudbury nickel output.
"There were thoughts of nickel mining in Timmins back in 1976, but there was no place to process it," McDonald says. "It costs two to three times the amount to ship it to Sudbury to process it. Now we might be able to make a go of it in Timmins."
The total undiluted indicated mineral resource at the Montcalm deposit is currently estimated at 7.02 million tonnes with a grading of 1.46 per cent nickel and 0.71 per cent copper.
The Montcalm deposit has the potential to produce a total of 5,000,000 tonnes of ore at a rate of 750,000 tonnes annually, McDonald says. If the mine is operated uninterrupted at 750,000 tonnes a year, the mine would last roughly until early 2009, McDonald adds.
The pre-production will last approximately 10 months, and full production should start in late 2002, McDonald says.
The advanced exploration program will cost approximately $13 million, and the total project will cost roughly $80 million before commercial production takes place.
The project will bring about 150 jobs to the Timmins area, McDonald says. The jobs are with the mining contractor, J.S. RedPath and the trucking contract, Northwest Transport.
For more information, visit the Falconbridge Web site at www.falconbridge.com.