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PAN AMERICAN SILVER Timmins Gold Assets Shine!

Jul 9, 2020

By Kevin Vincent

If every dark cloud has a silver lining, then the dark cloud of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic of 2020 for Pan American Silver, has been golden. In the words of Pan American’s Canadian Country manager, Dave Bernier, the performance of the company’s Timmins based gold operations has resulted in a positive spotlight from the board.

Pan American operates the Timmins West, and Bell Creek gold mines as well as the Bell Creek mill that processes the company’s ore. At one point during the pandemic, of the ten mines the company owns, Timmins was the only one operating.

Unlike many jurisdictions around the world, Canada considered mining an essential service, and the already hyper-safety-sensitive industry was allowed to continue operations.

“Almost immediately we set up an advisory team with our health and safety team, our managers and really led by our occupational health nurse,” said Bernier. “We’re lucky to have Laurie Dagg-Labine join us from the Porcupine Health Unit right at the beginning of the year, so it couldn’t have come at a better time. She had a lot of history with the health unit and was great for us.”

In addition, the company collaborated with Glencore Kidd Operations as well as Newmont Porcupine representatives. “We had a roundtable every week just to share best practices – what are they seeing – what are we seeing. It proved very beneficial and kept us on the same page and we learned from each other.”

Site screening, temperature checks, and enhanced cleaning all factored into the company’s protocols which managed (at the time of this writing) to prevent any positive cases from turning up in the two mines or the mill.

The company, like others, also took advantage of relationships with the Ontario Mining Association and the Mining Association of Canada.

The protocols put in place during the pandemic outbreak are now the new normal for mining companies. “We stagger shifts, we try and move people around to minimize the number of people in main gathering or entry points.”

The company also allowed voluntary layoffs for those who had vulnerable family

Pan American Silver, Canadian Country Manager, Dave Bernier
Pan American Silver, Canadian Country Manager, Dave Bernier

members who had health conditions that might be compromised by the virus. Thirtysix employees took advantage of that offer and most have either returned to work or are returning to work gradually.

“I think sometimes mining gets a bad rap, especially outside mining communities, that it’s a reckless business, or it’s not safe,” Bernier told Mining Life. “But I think in times like these it shows we are well prepared, whether it’s a virus or a bad ground situation, we attack them the same way. We do risk assessment, we put controls in place, we get employees involved, and because of that, mining has fared pretty well through this.”

“It’s important that we recognize our employees for their patience and diligence throughout all of this – all it would take is a few bad apples and that didn’t happen which allowed us to keep operating,” said Bernier. “We thank them all the time and we can’t thank them enough,” he added.

Pan American’s Q1 results did not disappoint. In the company’s quarterly filing, they reported gold revenues of $358 million and net profits of $114 million – hence the “love”. Gold production for the first quarter remained on target and with the early year bump in the price of the yellow metal and a favourable exchange rate – it was an impressive start to the year.

Pan American estimated that the impact on production would be about 10% heading into the pandemic – Bernier says that estimate proved accurate. “Our goal was to get back on track by Q3 – we are still aiming for that. But we also understand that could change because there’s a lot of uncertainty out there.”

In the meantime, the company is anxiously waiting for the permit to expand the Bell Creek Mine so they can test at a higher throughput at the mill. With the higher price of gold and the appetite to pursue other projects, the company wants to add capacity to the mill circuit to 250 tons an hour.

At the time of this writing, Bernier and the rest of the Timmins management team were waiting for government approval to pursue what they are calling the Wetmore Deposit. Those plans include a 40,000 metre drill program that would expand the Bell Creek footprint.

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