KGHM begins site preparation for Victoria Project
Excavation of 1,892-metre exploration shaft to commence next year
KGHM International has commenced site construction work at its Victoria Project 30 kilometres west of Sudbury in preparation for the sinking of an exploration shaft next year.
The 6.7-metre diameter shaft is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2016 and will extend to a depth of 1,892 metres. Lateral development will follow at the 1,400, 1,600 and 1,800-metre levels for underground definition drilling and the extraction of a bulk sample in 2018.
Parent company KGHM Polska Miedz acquired the Victoria Project when it purchased Quadra FNX in December 2011 for $3.3 billion.
Hailed by former Quadra FNX president Paul Blythe as “one of the most significant discoveries made in the Sudbury district in the past 40 years,” Victoria boasts an inferred resource of approximately 12 million tonnes grading 2.3% copper, 2.2% nickel and 8.5 g/t precious metals.
The deposit starts at 1,000 metres from surface and remains open at 2,000 metres. At that depth, surface drilling would be “like pushing down on a piece of spaghetti,” hence the decision to proceed to an advanced exploration program, explained Adrian McFadden, vice-president of underground operations for KGHM International.
KGHM has submitted a closure plan to the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines and has signed memoranda of understanding with the Sagamok and Atikameksheng First Nations.
The company had a choice of sinking two shafts concurrently or in sequence.
“At this point in time, we’re looking at a single exploration shaft scenario because it’s an inferred resources,” said McFadden. “We want to be able to go down and determine its actual size. The way it looks right now, we’d be able to convert it to a ventilation shaft, or use it as a production shaft if the orebody isn’t sustainable for a higher mining rate or there’s some surprise that we don’t anticipate.”
A decision on the economic viability of the project would be made following the conclusion of definition drilling in 2018.
Commencement of mining operations would depend on the results of advanced exploration, commodity prices and a decision on whether to sink a second shaft. Commercial production would likely begin at a rate of 1,200 to 1,500 tonnes per day in 2023 and increase to 3,500 tonnes per day over a mine life of 10 plus years, according to McFadden.
Copper and nickel sulphide mineralization was first discovered on the Victoria property in 1886. The property was acquired by the Mond Nickel Company in 1889 and yielded 888,000 tonnes of ore grading 2.99% copper and 2.12% nickel between 1900 and 1923.
Inco acquired the property following its merger with Mond Nickel in 1931 and brought it back into production in 1973, producing 649,000 tonnes of ore averaging 1.26% copper, .083% nickel and .067 oz/tonne of total precious metals.
In 2001, Inco sold Victoria and four other “non-core” assets to FNX Mining. Following the discovery of a new ore zone south of the historic Victoria Mine in 2011, Quadra FNX announced plans to spend upwards of $750 million to sink two concurrent shafts in support of a 2,500 to 4,000 tonne per day mining operation.
However, plans for Victoria were shelved when KGHM acquired Quadra FNX and entered into negotiations with Vale over processing terms and “back-in rights” to the project.
The two-year hiatus concluded in August when the two companies came to an agreement that leaves KGHM as the sole owner of the project with Vale receiving a royalty and off-take on production from the mine.
KGHM has a workforce of approximately 600 people in the Sudbury Basin and produces ore from the McCreedy West Mine and the Levack Mine’s Morrison deposit, which it accesses from Glencore’s adjacent Craig Mine.
The Victoria Project is approximately seven kilometres east of Vale’s Totten Mine.