Construction at IAMGOLD Côté open-pit mine has reached the 80 per cent completion mark. The project is on schedule for a first gold pour and the start of production in early 2024.
“All eyes are on Côté,” said IAMGOLD company-CEO Renaud Adams in a May 12 webcall with analysts on the Toronto gold company’s first-quarter 2023 results.
Construction activity is now at the peak period with more than 1,500 workers on site.
Adams said the Toronto gold company is “turning the corner” toward becoming a leading mid-tier producer. The Côté deposit, he said, will provide a “substantial” impact as a “cornerstone asset” for IAMGOLD as a potential district-scale operation in northeastern Ontario.
When in full operation, Côté will be the third largest gold mine in Canada, the company said.
As contractors carve out the pit, mining operations have essentially started.
Côté will be a state-of-the-art operation with autonomous haul trucks and drill rigs on site. The trucks are on site and autonomous hauling began in January. About one million tonnes of ore was stockpiled during the first quarter of this year with a targeted build-up of 5 million tonnes by year’s end.
By summer, Côté will progress to a 24-hour mining operation with the addition of a night shift.
The Côté Gold Project is situated halfway between Sudbury and Timmins, about 25 kilometres southwest of Gogama and five kilometres east of Highway 144. Through staking and option agreements, IAMGOLD holds almost 600 square kilometres of property with additional gold potential.
On the construction front, the first raise of the tailings dam was done in March. An onsite powerline is finished and will be connected to the grid and an electric substation in the second quarter.
A communications tower network for the autonomous haul trucks and drill rigs is nearing completion. A truck shop is being finished and an assay lab will be completed by the end of summer.
A 264-room camp expansion will be done by the end of the second quarter to bed down additional construction workers.
The main critical path item is finishing the processing plant where progress continues on the structural steel work in the grinding and crushing areas.
All their key pieces of equipment are either on site or on the way, IAMGOLD said. The heavy equipment fleet continues to arrive on site with 14 CAT 793F haul trucks, two 994 loaders and four D-10 dozers having been delivered. The first electric shovel is being assembled.
Adams said he recently toured the site and came away impressive with the pace of progress.
“Quite frankly it looks extremely good. Very impressive to see those autonomous trucks operating. It really looks like a solid operation…,” he said.
Adams was named head of IAMGOLD in early March, replacing board chair Maryse Bélanger, who will filling in an interim basis during the executive search process.
A 30-year veteran in management and operations, Adams most recently steered New Gold and its Rainy River pit operation from 2018 to 2022.
“From what I’m seeing now, all the operations are meeting their objectives. Can’t wait for the electric shovel to join the dance,” he said.
The estimated mine life of the Côté deposit is 18 years, but IAMGOLD has a satellite deposit next door that’s waiting in the wings.
The company has high hopes for the Gosselin Zone, just northeast of the main Côté deposit. Assay results from an ongoing drill program continue to look promising. About 15,500 metres of drilling is on tap for this year to outline and expand the mineral resources and test outlying targets.
“We believe we are in the early days of the Côté district,” said Adams.
On the financial side, IAMGOLD has spent $1.37 billion so far on Côté and will spend between $460 million and $535 million this year to finish the project. It’s joint venture partner, Sumitomo Metal Mining, has contributed $189 million, plus an additional $7.1 million to boost its ownership in the project.
IAMGOLD mentioned provincial Mines Minister George Pirie and the Flying Post Chief Murray Ray visited the site for a tour in January.
The company said it's been meeting regularly with its First Nations partners as part of its impact benefit agreement. Through a partnership with Indspire, an Indigenous education charity, four educational bursaries were awarded to post-secondary students from Mattagami First Nation, Flying Post First Nation and the Métis Nation of Ontario.