Kidd Operations has confirmed it is investing a lot of time and effort to try to find a way to extend the life of the massive Glencore Kidd mining complex in Timmins.
Mark Furlotte, the Kidd Operations general manager, responded to a query from the Sudbury Mining Solutions Journal to reveal the company has set up exploration drilling to target mineral zones deeper than three kilometers.
Furlotte’s comments followed the Big Event Canadian Mining Expo held in Timmins in June where the chief topic of conversation was what the future might hold for the Kidd Operations deep mine and how the company is planning to extend the life of the mine beyond the projected shutdown in 2022.
“Kidd is investing significant time and efforts into this exploration project to see if we can extend the mine life. But as everyone in the mining industry knows, defining an extension of a mine requires significant time and drilling meters, so we don’t expect an answer anytime soon.”
The plan to extend the mine life was considered by some to be the worst kept secret in Timmins. Even newly-elected Timmins Mayor George Pirie commented in January that the City was hoping for some positive news.
“We do not know whether or not Glencore will be able to extend the life of the Kidd Creek Mine. We know if they are not successful the community stands to lose over $100 million in annual payroll and over $50 million in annual goods and services spend by 2022,” said Pirie in his first ever state-of-the-city speech.
As it stands now, the official word is that the mine is still slated to shut down in 2022, based on the premise that the mine is so deep it is not economical to recover the muck from deeper than 10,000 feet.
The Kidd mine is currently the deepest base metal mine in the world with active mining taking place at 9,600 feet and the shaft bottom is currently at 9,889 feet, according to the company website. That's more than three kilometres deep. That information was confirmed by Kidd Mine operations manager Ryan Roberts, speaking at the Big Event gala dinner in early June.
The mine was discovered by exploration drilling in November 1963. It was revealed in April 1964. It was put into production in 1966 with an estimate of producing 25 million tonnes of ore. The most recent figures indicate the mine has produced far beyond that with more than 150 million tonnes of copper and zinc ore, according to Roberts.
Roberts also commented on the depth of the mine and the challenges of transporting work materials to the bottom of the mine as well as transporting ore out of the mine. Driving down the ramp from surface to 9600 is a 24-kilometre trip that takes one hour and 15 minutes.
Getting the ore to surface is not a simple task. From 9600 level the ore has to be hoisted through No. 4 shaft up to 4900. Then the ore is shipped by conveyor to the skips at No. 2 shaft where it is hoisted from 4900 to surface.
The 2022 shutdown timeline was based on Kidd’s own study to reduce costs and improve operational efficiencies with such things as ventilation-on-demand (VOD) and remotely operated heavy equipment such as LHDs and haulage trucks.
GOES TO GREAT DEPTH
Mayor Pirie said conversations with mine officials in late 2018 indicated there is a significant mineral zone below the 10,000 level that he described as “mantle breaking”.
“That means it goes to great depth,” Pirie explained. “What I meant by that is that it is a classic hydro-thermal vent. The mineralization is there and that again was confirmed with the new manager.”
Sources had indicated that Orbit Garant Drilling Services set up exploration drills at three cutouts on the 9800 level to search out and define the new ore zone.
“We can confirm an exploration program targeting mineralization below three kilometres had commenced in 2018. Exploration drilling is being completed from underground installations on the 9800 level,” said Furlotte.
He added that the current work is focussed on completing the 2019 exploration program, which he said is approximately 17,000 metres of drilling.
Sources aslo revealed there was ramping development taking place with a jumbo crew proceeding below 9800. Furlotte confirmed this.
“The 2019 exploration program also includes underground development that will extend the ramp from 9800 level to 9900 level, which provides an additional drilling location,” said Furlotte.