North America’s deepest gold mine, in northwestern Quebec, may soon get deeper. The LaRonde mine 56 kilometres west of Val d’Or, with a depth of 3.1 kilometres, could reach 3.7 kilometres in the latest development initiative by operator Agnico Eagle Ltd.
If the deep-level operation is successfully developed, the mine will have enough reserves to last an additional decade, to 2034, the company said.
Chief executive Sean Boyd, a 22-year Agnico veteran, has an engineering team working on the new 3.7-kilometre target level, seeking higher-grade ore and lower production costs to help LaRonde deal with bullion prices around the present $1,200 U.S. an ounce. Most of LaRonde’s ore now comes from the deeper levels.
Boyd told analysts Friday Agnico is working to extend LaRonde’s reserve base by targeting the 3.7-kilometre level and it has two drill holes under way. Drilling late last year added 444,000 ounces to LaRonde’s indicated reserves.
“We have a big exploration program underway this year in Canada and the LaRonde project is part of our long-term strategy,” he said.
Its Quebec mines will together produce about 700,000 ounces this year, including Agnico’s half-share of Canadian Malartic’s output.
The smaller Lapa and Goldex mines near LaRonde will get heavy investment this year to expand their reserves and lengthen their lives.
Agnico operates mines in Western Canada, Finland and Mexico besides Quebec. Total 2015 gold output will be about 1.6 million ounces, up from 1.4 million ounces in 2014.
First-quarter earnings for the three-month period ended March 31 were $31.4 million U.S. or 15 cents a share compared with $97.1 million or 56 cents a share a year earlier. Boyd said all eight mines performed well and costs were restrained. The quarter gained from the lower Canadian dollar, but bullion’s two-year decline hit realized metal prices.
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