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Mining the Northwest: Greenstone mine builders pleased with the pace of progress

$1-billion construction project hits two-thirds mark, first gold pour on tap for 2024

More than 2.5 million tonnes of material has been removed during the construction of the Greenstone Gold open-pit mine outside Geraldton in northwestern Ontario.

Pre-production mining started last September with four haul tracks and giant excavating shovel working the site located at the intersection of Highways 11 and 584, a few kilometres south of the town. The removed material comes in the form of gold ore, waste rock and overburden. 

Vancouver’s Equinox Gold delivered a project update this week reporting that construction is at the two-thirds mark (66 per cent) toward completion and that the US$1.23 billion project remains on budget and on schedule.

The first gold pour will take place sometime during the first half of 2024. "Hot commissioning" of the entire operation takes place during the first and second quarter of 2024.

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At the end of December, $680 million (55 per cent) of the construction budget has been spent and 71 per cent of the total capital costs had been contracted, according to a Jan. 25 news release.

Further broken down, the detailed engineering is done, procurement of supplies is at 77 per cent and actual construction is at the 56-per-cent mark.

The company said any inflationary pressures that could've impacted the project price tag have been mitigated through various savings measures and absorbed through a $177-million contingency fund built into the construction budget.

The project is a 60-40 joint venture between Equinox Gold and Orion Mine Finance Group. 

When completed, Equinox said Greenstone will be one of the largest gold mines in Canada.

In checking off various project items, Equinox said the processing plant will be enclosed this quarter. All the mechanical, piping and electrical installation contracts were awarded and equipment is being installed. 

All overseas and major equipment deliveries are arriving without delay, including the primary and secondary crushing components. The power plant equipment is on site and installation of the ball mill starts in March.

A 14-kilometre long natural gas pipeline, which will power the operation, is complete and will be ready for commissioning by this year's second quarter.

The mine waste tailings dam will ready to use by this year's fourth quarter.

A water diversion project of Goldfield Creek is finished along with an effluent water treatment plant. 

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Highway 11 is in the process of being re-routed around the pit operation with the new alignment opening to traffic by fourth quarter of this year.

Various houses and buildings in the general area were removed to make way for the mine, including a Ministry of Transportation patrol yard. A replacement facility nearby is now complete, Equinox said.

On the safety side, Equinox reports more than two million work hours in the bank without a lost-time injury.

“With key equipment on site or enroute, building infrastructure essentially complete and most buildings enclosed and heated, the construction effort is shifting to interior mechanical, electrical and piping installation during the winter months,” said Equinox CEO Greg Smith in a statement. 

The gold production rate will more than 400,000 ounces annually for the first five years and more than 5 million ounces over its initial 14-year mine life.

Those interested in checking out the pace of progress at Greenstone can go to the company's website. New photos are added every week.