Lisa Wright is a business reporter with the Toronto Star, which has the largest circulation in Canada. The paper has an enormous impact on Canada’s federal and provincial politics as well as shaping public opinion.
“After almost 130 years of mining activity, it’s amazing that we keep finding
such significant and rich deposits like the Victoria mine,” says mining industry
consultant and Sudbury native Stan Sudol. “The Sudbury basin has not given up
all her geological secrets—not by a long shot,” adds Sudol, who writes the
popular RepublicOfMining.com blog.
Michael Winship laughs when he thinks of the racy nickname his colleagues gave to a grubby nickel deposit with 110-year-old working roots in the Sudbury basin.
Though the new chief operating officer of Quadra FNX Mining Ltd. has spent more than 30 years in the metals game, you don’t have to have his globe-trotting resume to know that mine sites aren’t the least bit sexy or glamorous environments to set foot in.
But considering the jaw-dropping find that the Toronto firm’s geologists recently made just a kilometre from the previously-mined Victoria site — and which they quietly felt for some time could turn into something spectacular — the cheeky ‘Victoria’s secret’ moniker fits just fine. “We’ve got one of the richest deposits in Sudbury in the last few decades,” the affable Winship says in an interview.
“There was an old mine in there in 1899 that was mined off and on for the last century. And this is a totally new find about a kilometre away.
“It’s a tremendous exploration success,” he says.
The mid-tier copper producer just announced in April that the new Victoria project contains more than 3.4 billion pounds of nickel, copper and other metals, and that it hopes to start sinking a shaft next year.
The goal is to begin production in 2017 and Quadra FNX is now working on permitting and consultations with First Nations groups in the area.
“We’re an aggressive company, so we’re moving fast to get on the engineering and the environmental work,” notes Winship.
The company said the deposit has an inferred resource estimate totalling 12.5 million tonnes, with high grades of 2.3 per cent copper, 2.2 per cent nickel and a whopping 8.5 grams per tonne of precious metals.
“Our geologists were exploring there in 2009. It was a secret for a while, hence the ‘Victoria’s secret’ nickname. When I came along (to Quadra FNX) last year I knew there was something pretty promising there,” says Winship.
“You never know whether it’s going to become a mine or whether it’s just interesting geology. So earlier this year we had 16 drill holes, and that’s when the geologists put together the resource. And we said this is something that we can really make a go of.”
Winship says the deposit “remains open” in all directions, which means the full extent of its size has yet to be determined.
In Sudbury, Quadra FNX already operates the McCreedy West, Levack and Podolsky mines. Victoria is expected to catapult the intermediate miner into the big leagues in the basin alongside entrenched giants Vale (formerly Inco) and Swiss-owned Xstrata, which scooped up Falconbridge five years ago.
“The inferred resource estimate for our Victoria project has established this deposit as one of the most significant discoveries made in the Sudbury district in the past 40 years, and a key development project for our company,” notes Quadra chief executive Paul Blythe.
He goes way back with Winship to the Placer Dome (now Barrick Gold Corp.) gold mining days. Blythe brought the 53-year-old mining engineer on board last year after the merger of Vancouver’s Quadra with Toronto’s FNX Mining.
Winship has developed or operated 20 mines all over the world from the South Pacific to the Far North throughout his career.
And the avid outdoorsman is no stranger to Sudbury. He spent seven years there working for Inco, which was eventually taken over by Brazil’s Vale. Before he left in 2007, Winship rose to vice-president of mining and milling, which put him in charge of seven big nickel and copper mines along with the massive mill operations.
He says the lure to Quadra for him is developing big capital projects such as the highly touted $2.85 billion Sierra Gorda copper site in northern Chile and the $750 million Victoria project.
The Victoria mine property is located 30 kilometres from the City of Sudbury near Lively, in the southwest quadrant of the nickel-rich basin. It operated from 1900 to 1923 and again from 1973 to 1978 under the former Inco.
The former FNX had acquired five old Sudbury mines from Inco in 2002, including the Victoria property, in hopes of making more promising finds through further exploration.
“With my background in Sudbury I thought it would be a great place to get involved and help build a new mine there,” he says.
“It’s a good, high-grade deposit: high copper, high nickel, high precious metals,” says Winship of the Victoria site.
“There’s a lot of platinum and palladium too, particularly at depth. It definitely helps pay for the development and the bills,” he says with a laugh.
For the rest of this article, please go to the Toronto Star website: http://www.thestar.com/business/article/1008142–victoria-s-secret-has-eyes-popping-in-canada-s-mining-industry