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Harte Gold hiring and increasing production by 50%

Jan 22, 2021

By Kevin Vincent
According to an old saying, there’s a silver lining in every cloud. In the case of Harte Gold’s Sugar Zone Mine near White River, you might tweak that a little to say there’s a gold lining in a pandemic cloud.
The global coronavirus outbreak forced the mine to shut down for three months in 2020, giving the company time to focus on long-term planning, including a huge production increase from 800 to 1200 tonnes per day.
“We shut the mine down for protection at the beginning and we kept it a little bit longer and that gave us the opportunity to think about the business and get into everything that we’re getting into right now, raising money and doing a feasibility and so on,” Mine Manager and Vice President of Operations Dan Gagnon told Mining Life.
“So, it was actually a good time for us to close shop. Then we moved to owner mining where we basically took on all of our employees. We have all Harte personnel and we’ve added over 80 guys on our payroll, and we’re still growing. We added a fourth shift because I decided to make it a two in two out, versus a 20 and 10, more work-life balance and better for attraction and retention of people.”
Gagnon says the payroll at Harte has grown from 175 to 230 employees which has a big impact on a small community where available housing is scarce.
The mine is growing, and they’ve brought back the diamond drills on surface and underground and the company is ramping up production. “We’re looking at expanding our mine life, and I think the people are feeling better about the future there. We have over 10 years of reserves.”
“Now, my main job is to retain people. So, we have a lot of strategies, competitive wages. We have a modest camp that we are going to be upgrading next year to a new camp that people will have their own individual washrooms and more modern facilities. So that’ll help us with the attraction and retention of people. And we have good benefits, competitive benefits and so on. Plus, the fact that we now have moved from contract mining to owner-mining is also I believe, helping us to attract people because they know now that they’ll be there for the long term.”
With a 50% production boost, the future looks bright for Harte. “And now, we also trigger the feasibility study, where we’re going to share the results later in January about the potential of growing from 800 to 1200 tons per day,” said Gagnon.
At the moment, the Sugar Zone Mine has a life expectancy of just over a decade and Gagnon says they expect to increase that.
“We’ve got a little over 10 years of work and actually, it’s about 13 years. And after the COVID break, we brought in one diamond drill underground, which in 2021 we’ll probably be bringing in a second one. We’re also doing surface exploration. We did geophysics. We did sampling in the summer. We did find a new showing which includes some high-grade veins. And this (past) December actually, we started drilling again and we will continue in the New Year drilling on surface. That regional exploration is to find the new mine.”
Gagnon says the company continues to explore underground and regionally.  “We have 36 kilometers of pretty well unexplored frontier prolific Archaean deposit type geology and we will continue to explore it.”
The company has budgeted between $7 and $8 million for 2021 exploration, including underground and across their property.
The entire area near White River through to Hemlo and Marathon is a hotbed of activity so the competition to attract talent is considerable.
“And in our case, for example, we have a camp that’s located in White River with basically 150 people. And then the East West Tie hydroelectric upgrade, they just put up a camp with 176 people. So that’s definitely good for the economy”.
As for ongoing Covid-19 protocols, until there are widespread vaccinations, the company is utilizing a rapid-testing program through the Ontario Mining Association (OMA). “We volunteered for a pilot project with the OMA, where we do antigen testing, which is testing over an eight-week period, a population of your workforce that are asymptomatic. So, we’re testing random parts of our population, part of our group and we are focused on individuals that may come from red zones, for people that talk to a lot of people that spend a lot of time with people like myself.”
The company raised $41 million (CDN) in 2020 to prepare for the major expansion in 2021 said Gagnon. “It will mean increased manpower, increase camp capacity, probably expanding the mill, expanding the tailings area, and so on. It’s going to be a pretty major endeavor.”

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