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Gogama open-pit mine build on track for 2023 production start

Year of heavy spending ahead at IAMGOLD's Côté Gold Project as mine site complex takes shape
IAMGOLD processing plant construction
Wall panel cladding of the processing plant at Côté Gold this month. (IAMGOLD photo)

Construction of IAMGOLD's Côté Gold Project at Gogama is nearing the halfway mark.

The Toronto-based international miner said construction at Côté was at the 43 per cent mark at the end of the fourth quarter of 2021. Things look on schedule for the start of commercial gold production in the second half of 2023.

The company delivered a project update with its year-end financials and production numbers.

The Côté Gold Project is located 125 kilometres south of Timmins and 175 kilometres north of Sudbury. It's a 70-30 joint venture between IAMGOLD and Sumitomo Metal Mining of Japan. Groundbreaking of the open pit took place in the fall of 2020.

Despite COVID case counts rising dramatically in Ontario this month, the company said there's been no delays experienced at the site.

Cladding is going up on the processing plant with the building expected to be fully enclosed by the end of this year's first quarter. The primary and secondary crusher buildings are up with the equipment having arrived on site.

The water treatment plant has been commissioned and a switch to grid power for the camp will take place in the new year. Excavation of the foundation of the tailings facility began in December.

At year's end, the project reached 3.4 million hours of no lost time injuries.

On the actual mining side, the first ore blast took place last October in the southern part of the carved out pit. Stripping of the surface rock and soil through to fresh rock in the east part of the pit has been made.

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A number of key permits have been secured including provincial approval for the mining operation, a permit to take water, and one to support construction of a 42-kilometre long, 115 KV power line. Tree clearing has started to clear room for that line.

The workers' camp is completed, along with the construction camp, with a total of 1,388 rooms. The project averaged 800 workers at the site prior to the Christmas holiday rampdown.

At the end of 2021, 87 per cent of procurement and 79 per cent of contract packages have been awarded.

The remaining project spending at Côté amounts to $710 million and $760 million, with between $590 million to $620 million taking place this year.

When operational, the mine is expected to produce a yearly average of 367,000 ounces of gold over an 18-year mine life. The deposit contains an estimated gold reserve of more than 7 million ounces, but exploration at the site continues.

Late in the year, IAMGOLD posted a first-time gold estimate on a neighbouring satellite deposit, the Gosselin Zone, situated 1.5 kilometres northeast of where construction is currently taking place.

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The company believes its 500-square-kilometre property, just west of Highway 144, contains enough gold to create a district-scale open-pit mining operation with plenty of longevity. IAMGOLD also announced that Gordon Stothart has resigned as president-CEO and also resigned from the board.

Daniella Dimitrov, the CFO and executive vice president of strategy and corporate development, will fill the void on an interim basis until a corporate headhunting firm searches for a successor. Stothart remains for now in an advisory capacity.

Board Chair Don Charter said Stothart "played a key role in the evolution of the company over 15 years and, in particular, the championing of our Côté Gold project."

The new project overseer at Côté is Jerzy Orzechowski. With 40 years of experience on large capital projects like this, as executive project director, he'll take things through to completion.

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