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Sudbury Mining Solutions

Commentary

No endeavour for the faint of heart

November 26, 2013
by Norm Tollinsky
In: Norm Tollinsky

Norm Tollinsky, Editor, Sudbury Mining Solutions Journal.

This month marks the handover to operations at Vale’s state-of-the-art Totten Mine, the first new mine in the Sudbury Basin for Vale (and the former Inco) in 40 years.

In this issue of Sudbury Mining Solutions Journal, you can read about the cutting-edge technology at Totten and some of the engineering challenges encountered during the mine’s construction, but the development of any new mine is primarily a human triumph made possible by hundreds of talented people working together as a team.

Foremost among them in the case of Totten are the members of the in-house project management team – people like project manager Bill Booth, execution manager Gary Annett, automation and production lead Jack McIssac, operational readiness lead Bernie Parisé, senior environmental specialist Allison Merla, chief mine geologist Lance Howland, chief mine engineer Erick Jarvi and maintenance superintendent Jason MacKinnon.

Building a new mine is no endeavour for the faint of heart. In the case of Totten, the project team oversaw the rehabilitation of a 4,130-foot timbered shaft built in1966, the excavation of 43,200 feet of lateral development plus thousands of feet of ventilation raises and boreholes, and the installation of the infrastructure and minewide communication system.

They overcame ground control and water ingress challenges. They weathered a wild rollercoaster ride that saw nickel prices climb from $9 a pound in 2006 to $24 in 2007 and back down to $4 in 2008. And they directed the traffic of 500 or more workers from dozens of companies while chalking up an industry-leading safety record.

Totten Mine is a testament to the incredible mining talent we have in Sudbury and Northern Ontario, but it is also indicative of the seemingly inexhaustible mineral wealth of the Sudbury Basin.

Ore was discovered on the site of Totten Mine in 1884 and mined from 1890 to 1927, when there was a cave-in caused by a crown pillar failure. Inco bought the property in 1935 from the Mond Nickel Company, sunk the Number One shaft to the 820-foot level and mined approximately one million tonnes. The Number Two shaft –Totten’s current shaft – was sunk from 1966 to 1972, but placed on care and maintenance and allowed to flood in 1976 when nickel prices tanked. It was drilling in the 1990s that defined the deposit as it’s known today.

Now, a mere seven kilometres east of Totten Mine, a similar story is playing out as KGHM International begins site preparation at its Victoria Project, where a new ore zone was recently discovered on the site of another historic mine.

Clearly, after more than a century of mining, the mineral wealth of the Sudbury Basin is nowhere near exhaustion – great news for the talented people in the region’s mining community who thrive on challenges.

See Pages 19 to 30 for a full report on Totten Mine and Page 15 for more on KGHM’s Victoria Project.

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