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2020 ushers in Barrick Hemlo 2.0

Jul 11, 2020

By Kevin Vincent

The overhaul of Barrick’s Hemlo property that began in early 2019 is continuing to outline a promising, results-oriented program into 2020 that will extend the life of the mine to 2028.

The Marathon, Ontario operation was given a clear mandate to ‘right the ship’, or according to market-watchers, Barrick was going to unload the underperforming property to another operator.

General Manager Adam Foulstone told Mining Life that Hemlo 2.0 is pointed in the right direction and 2020 may prove to be a watershed year for the operation, once Covid-19 restrictions are fully lifted and full-scale implementation of comprehensive upgrades and modernization plans can begin.

Heading into 2019, the company knew that its underground operations were underperforming. Total gold output was 22% below 2018 targets which landed the mine in the crosshairs of the corporate office.

In addition, poor and inconsistent communications with the local indigenous communities, Biigtigong Nishnaabeg and Netmizaagamig Nishnaabeg First Nations, allowed the relationship with Barrick Hemlo to become more transactional in nature, less transparent and reactive. Barrick Hemlo spent the year of 2019 engaging with the rightsholders and building the relationships they now have today. A strong relationship that focuses on genuine partnerships and mutual benefit.

And then, like the rest of the world, those plans were sideswiped by the coronavirus pandemic. The company immediately established a comprehensive COVID-19 plan in partnership with area communities and First Nations leaders. The plan, that began in late January, included screening all employees for symptoms, mandatory 14-day isolation for travelers (with pay), site-wide social distancing measures, and a $230,000 community support program that included support for labour, food banks, victim services and First Nations’ needs.


The pandemic plans included oversight and guidance from local health unit officials as well as the Ministry of Labour personnel to ensure proper protocols were both implemented and followed.

As an example, the company conducted more than 17,000 health and temperature screenings in the first quarter of 2020.

One of the strategies being implemented by Hemlo during the COVID pandemic, is to issue gift certificate vouchers specifically designed to be spent with local businesses hit hard by the global lockdown, in order to stimulate the local economy.

“The community piece has been huge,” said Karen Osadchuk, Hemlo Sustainability Manager.


With the Hemlo Resource Expansion Project topping the to-do list, Foulstone and senior management are now focused on the plan to reinvent the way Hemlo pursues its production goals.

“Our operations at Hemlo needed to be modernized and streamlined to secure the mine’s future viability and to extend its life of mine. This included a move to an underground contract mining model,” said Foulstone.

Based on a series of detailed evaluation, feasibility and trade off studies, Barrick tendered for an underground mining contractor to partner with Hemlo in its transition to becoming a more modern mine. In March 2020, Barrick signed a letter of intent with Australia-based Barminco as the winning contractor.

At the time, the company felt Barminco would provide contract mining services, “with the objective of improving productivity through industry-leading technology and more efficient mining methods at Hemlo’s underground operation.”

Barminco’s directives included undertaking mine development, production and haulage, utilizing mining equipment provided by Barrick.

“Barrick recognizes the importance of changing the way we operate and committing to a more modern mining methodology to ensure Hemlo’s future profitability,” said Foulstone.

Barrick and Barminco consulted closely with employees, the Biigtigong Nishnaabeg and Netmizaagamig Nishnaabeg First Nations groups, as well as representatives of the Marathon, Manitouwadge and White River communities, ahead of signing the letter of intent.

“To be blunt,” said Foulstone, “Canadian mining methods are probably 10 years behind the rest of the world in terms of technology and other approaches. We know that bringing in an international contractor may seem out of the ordinary – but the end result is that everyone will benefit from the modern, up-to-date expertise that Barminco brings together with a transfer of skills.”

The expansion plan includes just over $19 million for exploration drilling. The company estimates the all-in bump in production costs will come in at $10/oz.

2019 production was 213,000 ounces and, at the time of this article, notwithstanding the Covid19 pandemic, the target for 2020 was 220,000 ounces. By contrast, 2018 was a disappointing 170,000 ounces. The company is waiting for corporate approval on the $25 million expansion budget plan, which will add an aggressive 1.9 million increase in reserve potential.

Hemlo has produced more than 21 million ounces of gold, and has been operating continuously for more than 30 years. It consists of the Williams mine—an underground and open pit operation—located about 350 kilometers east of Thunder Bay, Ontario.

Tags: Northern Ontario / Operational Updates / Gold / All Articles