OMA member profile: Kirkland Lake Gold-new mines for old sites

This article was provided by the Ontario Mining Association (OMA), an organization that was established in 1920 to represent the mining industry of the province.


Ontario Mining Association member Kirkland Lake Gold is expanding its precious metals production not just at a former mine site but on the foundations of its name sake gold mining community.  Kirkland Lake Gold, which has more than 600 employees, is involved in a $56 million-plus capital expenditure program to increase its gold production from 50,000 ounces per year to 200,000 ounces per year by 2012.

Kirkland Lake Gold from its South Mine Complex is building on the legacy of the ground mined by five of the seven former gold operations that made Kirkland Lake famous and produced more than 24 million ounces of gold.  This is the first time properties in the Kirkland Lake area have been consolidated with a single owner.

The new gold miner controls the five westernmost mine sites in the Kirkland Lake mile of gold.  From west to east, the mines are Macassa, Kirkland Minerals, Tech-Hughes, Lake Shore and Wright-Hargreaves.  The distance from Macassa to Wright-Hargreaves is about seven kilometres.  The Sylvanite Mine, which operated from 1927 to 1961 and the Toburn Mine, which operated from 1913 to 1953, lay to the east of Kirkland Lake Gold’s consolidated property.  

The company restored gold production in Kirkland Lake in 2005 at the former Macassa property.  New exploration projects led to the discovery of additional high grade gold mineralization to the south of the main strike zone.  Kirkland Lake Gold acquired the Macassa Mine and mill and four former gold producing properties in 2001. 

“The Kirkland Lake gold camp is one of the most prolific gold camps in the world,” said Brian Hinchcliffe, President and Chief Executive Officer of Kirkland Lake Gold.  “By modernizing and refurbishing the existing infrastructure, which supported the five historic mines’ collective average production of 800,000 ounces per year during the 1920s to 1960s, Kirkland Lake gold is focused on redeveloping and advancing historic mines into a profitable gold operation that will be more productive than when in production for 65 years during the mid to late 1900s.”

In 2009, the company started a three-year development and refurbishment program, which included an increase in hoisting capacity.  In 2011, Kirkland Lake Gold anticipates bullion production of 90,000 to 100,000 ounces.

The old saying that the best place to find a new gold mine is near an existing gold mine – or in this case a historic gold camp — has more merit than ever.  Over time, technology for the detection of ore bodies, mining processes and metallurgical recoveries all improve often making old sites worth a fresh look and assessment. 

Along with technological advances you have to look at economics. The price of gold today is hovering above $1,400 an ounce.  In the early part of the 20th century when most of the original Kirkland Lake gold mines started production, the official price of gold was $20.67 (U.S.) per ounce, or about $345 in today’s dollars.  Technological advances and changing economics and markets can turn old mineral properties into new mines, if individuals and companies have the vision and dedication to make it work – something Kirkland Lake Gold has every intention of executing.

“With the current reserve base of 3.7 million ounces in all categories, the mine currently has an estimated 18 year mine life,” added Mr. Hinchcliffe.  “The corporate objective is to continue to expand mine life and reserves by aggressive exploration programs on and around the other four historic mines, both to the east and west of the Macassa property, which remain largely unexplored.”

Along with its mineral exploration and development successes, the company is breaking new ground in the human resource field.  For six years, it has worked with Northern College in Kirkland Lake to develop a community college course to train underground hardrock miners.  The members of the first class of 12 locally trained graduates of the 12-week course have started their mining careers.

“Kirkland Lake Gold congratulates today’s class and welcomes them into a very exciting era in mining for Northern Ontario,” said Brian Hinchcliffe, at the graduation ceremony last month.  “The company would also like to take this opportunity to recognize the staff of Northern College for its professionalism and the positive attitudes and efforts put forward by the students.  We look forward to participating in this program going forward.”  The next course is scheduled to commence this month.

Kirkland Lake Gold is an active member of the OMA.  This article is the tenth in a series of profiles of OMA member companies and their contributions to the vitality of Ontario’s society and economy.

Quick Facts

In the Kirkland Lake area during the Second World War, mining wages were in the range of $4.64 per day for labourers and muckers, $5.20 per day for track and lamp men and $8.70 per day for mine captains. (from the book Gold in Kirkland Lake by Michael Barnes.)

Today, according to the SKILLS WORK! book of Skills Canada Ontario, which provides career profiles for high school students, production miners in Onario can earn basic salaries of from $24 to $47 per hour, or $49,000 to $97,000 annually.