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Building a multi-million-ounce gold project in Northern Ontario

Dec 11, 2022

Eric Pic
Greenstone Mine’s General Manager, Eric Lamontagne


If you attended the Central Canada Resource Expo in Thunder Bay in September, you couldn’t help but notice the presence of the Equinox Gold – Greenstone Mine team at their display and on the trade show grounds looking for products, services and employees to help their HR and procurement team in the building of one of Canada’s top gold producers.
During the event, Greenstone Mine’s General Manager, Eric Lamontagne provided an update on the status of the construction of the Greenstone Mine and their plans as they head into pre-production.  The Greenstone Mine is located 275 km northeast of Thunder Bay, in the Municipality of Greenstone, Ward of Geraldton and is located in the traditional territory of Treaty 9 which is the traditional territories of the Animbiigoo Zaagi’igan Anishinaabek, Aroland First Nation, Ginoogaming First Nation, Long Lake #58 First Nation and home to the citizens of the Metis Nation of Ontario. The project started as a brownfield project. It was mined between 1930-1970 by the Hard Rock, MacLeod-Cockshutt and Mosher companies.
The Greenstone Mine is now 60% owned by Equinox Gold and 40% owned by Orion. The Greenstone Gold Mine team continues to advance the project into production. The project was rebranded as the Greenstone Project.
Working on the project in the midst of the COVID Pandemic was challenging. Between April and September of 2021, the project moved on schedule with the pre-production early works starting with land clearing, a temporary water treatment plant and the construction of their lodging facilities. In October of 2021 the Groundbreaking Ceremonies took place onsite.
Currently the open pit sits in the middle of Highway 11 and is being relocated for about 4.4 kilometres and the plan is to have the new highway completed and handed over by Q4 2023.
The footprint of the mine is 12 km long and 5 km wide and when traveling through Geraldton you couldn’t help but notice the change in the landscape and the construction activity taking place. This small northern community is buzzing with activity. The project is an economic boost and is important to the communities and their indigenous partners in which they operate. The mine project has become and will remain for years to come, an economic development pillar in the Greenstone.

To name just a few of the short- and long-term benefits:
Over 2,000 jobs during construction
1.2 billion dollars in federal and provincial taxes
Over 3 billion dollars in Ontario purchases alone
Many upgrades to infrastructure
Many partnership opportunities and more …

Eric stated he was proud of the partnerships they are establishing, and it is a pleasure in working with the municipality of Greenstone.
Eric was anxious to dive into where they are and where they are going in the construction phase of the project. “Every day the project moves closer to pre-production, with 750 people on site currently working 7 days a week, every day of the month we are at full capacity and at the peak of construction. The truck maintenance shop is currently under construction. Along with the Crusher building and the secondary crusher building which will eventually go to the dome and then the processing plant. For the health and safety of our operation since the beginning of the project we are without lost time and we just finalized a call this morning prior to the conference where we reached 1.5 million hours without any lost time injury and it’s really important for the Greenstone Project to make sure all our employees and contractors return home safe. Covid 19 did not impact the mine that much up to date as we implemented a mandatory mandate vaccine for all employees and contractors. We took a lot of measures because of the severity of the pandemic. We continue to monitor this very closely”, stated Eric.
The mine is fully permitted. The Independent Review Board was in place since 2017 to give oversight for design, construction and management of the tailings management facility. The project is in full compliance with all permits and management plans and has met all reporting deadlines. The Phase 2 financial assurance was submitted in Q1 2022 and covers the mine pre-production activities. Last winter the mine completed the relocation of the Goldfield Creek.
When speaking about opportunities for their indigenous partners Eric was proud to say that his agreements are top of the line agreements with many ideas in starting new partnerships. A couple of examples given in his presentation were the partnership of the relocation of the police station, a solar panel project which was 10 megawatts, and the start of training programs. Eric said it is important to work in partnership on training and to increase the number of trainees to provide more permanent jobs in the future.


Greenstone Mine mill


For the mine itself Eric said, “we just started mining with the first blast happening few weeks ago (end of August). We had our barbecue in Greenstone and we invited the community to attend. The response was very good as the mine is very well received by the community. During the event the mine organized a site visit with 500 people in attendance.  It was a very good day.”
The mine will ramp up to 70,000,000 tonnes per year. To do so it is critical to the mine’s success they have a safe start-up which will include the sufficient training required to operate, a team committed to safety and a void management plan in place due to the historical underground workings. Along with a safe start-up will come good execution which will incorporate planning and communication, availability of a workforce and the equipment required, excellent supplier support expertise and services, the dewatering of underground workings and a multitude of other details.
 Eric said in his presentation that in 2023 they will ramp up with the machinery required to a full projection so that at the end of 2023 they are ready to go into commercial production in 2024.
The open pit is close to two kilometres by one kilometre and at a depth of 600 metres. The Reserves sit currently at 135 million tonnes at 1.27 g/t with a reserve currently set at 5.5 million ounces of gold. As the mine evolves it will likely extend the life of the mine. The mine just assembled their first fleet of equipment at the time of the conference (beginning of September) to supply the rock needed for the construction phase. Eventually we will require up to 31 CAT 793 trucks, 4 Komatsu/SMS PC5500 shovels, 1 Komatsu LT-1850 loader, 6 Epiroc PV235 drills, 6 Komatsu 375 dozers and 3 CAT 16M graders to supply a 50,000 tonnes per day operation.
Progress on the Process Plant started on the west end and already the structure is in place and the cladding is now finished.  In working on the east end, they are preparing the two foundations for the ball mill and by December they’ll put the steel structure and the cladding to enclose the building completely before the winter. The process plant is a conventional one which is very similar to the Rainy River Mine.
The plant is designed to operate at 27,000 t/d and progress on the construction of the Process Plant is 30% complete with all the equipment on schedule for delivery.
Work commenced underground in Q3 2022 and is underway with a leach tank being installed by Q4 2022 along with the ball mills and the crushers are looking to be installed by Q3 2023.
The mining industry just like others in Ontario and globally for that matter are experiencing delays in production and shipping of the goods required for construction and day to day operations. Eric noted in his presentation that they have had some delay with the steel. The team at Greenstone Gold Mine are eager and able to adapt to certain hold ups in the delivery of materials and have switched their schedule by completing the concrete foundation for the second ball mill. The focus remains the same which is to close everything up by the end of December 2022/January 2023.
The Greenstone Mine is on track as there have been no drastic changes in the major facility milestones such as the delivery of the Permanent Effluent Water Treatment Plant, Power Plant, Process Plant, Goldfield Creek Diversion, TMF, Hwy 11 Handover and start of pre-production mine activities which will see the first gold pour in H1 2024.
Eric closed in stating, “we have a very good team that have worked together since the beginning. Most of the workforce goes back as far as 2013 and are still with us today. The team essentially is the core of the operation. It’s fun because mining is a very small world. For the employment opportunities we have a lot of jobs we need to fill. You are looking at 550 employees working year-round plus 250-300 in contractors. If you are looking for a career in mining, you are encouraged to go to our website and you can apply online or call our team of HR staff. The same applies for supply and service companies looking to connect with our operation you can visit us online as well.”

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For this article and more visit the digital copy of: The Northern Ontario Mining Report

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