Sudbury Mining a bright future – by Carol Muligan (Sudbury Star – April 13, 2013)

The Sudbury Star is the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.

Editor’s Note: Sudbury Star managing editor Brian MacLeod, photographer John Lappa and reporter Carol Mulligan spent Thursday at Vale’s Creighton Mine, at the invitation of Kelly Strong, Vale’s vicepresident of Ontario and UK operations. Look for news coverage of our conversation with Strong next week in The Star.

Of the 330 people who work at Vale’s Creighton Mine, Pat Shell says he has the best job.

A production miner described by his supervisors as a proud hockey dad and “bolter extraordinaire,” Shell turns off the piece of machinery he’s operating at Creighton’s 7,910-foot level mid-morning Thursday. He’s been installing ground control supports to make the area safe for people to work.

Shell explains what he’s doing to three journalists touring the mine, led by Vale vicepresident of Ontario and UK Operations Kelly Strong and other Creighton managers.

The mine has come a long way from the open-pit operation it began as in 1901, evolving into one of the most storied, well researched, highly regarded and, no doubt, profitable nickel mines in Canada, if not the world.

After more than a century of operation, in which miners have burrowed almost 8,000 feet below the surface of the Sudbury Basin, Creighton Mine is an enviable asset.

The deeper workers go, the richer the ore body is becoming, says Strong.

At least 1.5 miles underground, Shell stops what he’s doing to explain how he’s securing the sills or drifts in the 461 ore body, using a sophisticated piece of machinery called a Boltec.

Working in “rounds” about 12 feet deep, Shell installs 80 to 100 bolts per round, securing heavy screening to the walls and ceiling of the drift being developed. Those rounds will later be sprayed with shotcrete, a type of concrete or mortar applied pneumatically with a hose, to secure the area so it will be safe to mine.

Shell is working at the edge of an area mine manager Frank Demers calls the future of Creighton Mine. It is similar in that regard to the future of many mining operations in Sudbury where companies are having to dig deeper to reach rich ore.

The work Shell and others are doing is part of the Phase 3 mine package at Creighton Mine, a $247-million capital expansion to deepen the mine from 7,940 to 8,020 feet.

The plan will extend the life of this grade of the flagship former Inco mine to 2027.

The drift or sill at which Shell is working leads into the rich 461 ore body. That sill has been blasted, had tons of rock removed by scoop tram and is now being secured by workers like Shell.

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