Lake Shore Gold to expand plant and create jobs in 2020

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Lake Shore Gold is ramping up production and looking to create jobs at its Bell Creek plant, possibly within the next year.

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David Bernier, country manager of Lake Shore Gold, said the company has made some adjustments due to the current economic situation in order to be able to process more ore.

“Next year, our growth will focus on a small mill expansion as well as growth at the Bell Creek mine.”

Bernier forecast a 20% increase in production in 2020 at Bell Creek with a steady gain over the next five years. This will allow the company to “release” the pressure on Timmins West to produce ore.

The opening of the well at Bell Creek has been a game-changer since it officially opened in December 2018, Bernier said.

“This has reduced costs significantly (around 20% on a ‘dummy basis’). The plant was designed for around 4,000 tonnes per day when we opened. Since then we have made minor improvements and adjustments to this and actually only had 5,000 tonnes removed from the mine in one day which was a record.

Currently, Timmins West and Bell Creek feed the mill approximately 5,200 to 5,500 tonnes of ore per day. They also employ around 650 people and around 70 full-time contractors. As for the life of the two mines, both are still expected to last until 2025.

In February of this year, a $4.5 billion company called Pan American Silver acquired Lake Shore Gold (now a subsidiary) after buying Tahoe Resources Inc., which includes the Timmins West mine, the Bell Creek mine and the Mill complex.

In a presentation to members of the Timmins Chamber of Commerce at the Porcupine Dante Club on Wednesday, Bernier mentioned a shortage of skilled labor in the mining industry. To combat the problem, he said Lake Shore Gold has partnered with Northern College to create a “very beneficial” apprenticeship program where six students every 12 weeks learn the trade. Bernier added that they have hired nearly half of the program’s graduates.

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Speaking to reporters, Bernier said ore is trucked through the city of West Timmins to the Bell Creek plant, averaging 2,600 and 3,000 tonnes per day. But with the Connecting Link construction on Algonquin Boulevard blocking the road next year, Bernier said it could have a big impact on costs. He guessed about $3 million.

“I guess it will be around $1.50 to $2 a ton. And if they say it’s six months, Timmins West produces about 900,000 tonnes a year, so that’s 450,000 tonnes times whatever increase it is.

Bernier said he asked Lake Shore Gold’s trucking company for an estimate of potential additional costs they could incur if the trucks were diverted from Algonquin.

“We haven’t received (the estimate) yet. I think we just want to make sure that all alternatives are considered. If it is possible to leave a few lanes open, that is obviously something that would work better for our business as well as others who use it as well as residents.

“It is a key artery. If there’s an opportunity to do that, I think it needs to be looked at, but I also understand there’s a lot of technical detail to do.

Bernier said he supports construction, but companies pay more money for each truckload of diverted ore.

Going forward, a number of other projects are somewhat underway, Bernier said, despite delays due to a lack of resources, but no rock or ground work would begin.

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