Barrick Gold (TSX: ABX; NYSE: GOLD) is moving ahead with plans to extend the life of its Hemlo gold mine in Ontario by transitioning the operation from open-pit mining to purely underground mining as a modernized ‘tier two’ asset.
Mining of the Williams pit is expected to wind down at the end of the month. Barrick has a transition plan in place to transfer most of the pit employees to Barminco, the underground contractor.
Since starting up in 1989, the pit has generated 2.8 million oz. gold. While the open pit was initially used as a backfill source for underground stopes within the Hemlo complex, in 2002, equipment and staff from the company’s Nevada operations established the pit as a gold-producing division.
By 2013, the underground David Bell mine closed, with ore sourced from the pit and the Williams underground operation. Over the following six years, the open pit became the primary ore source at Hemlo.
Catherine Raw, Barrick’s chief operating officer for North America, said in a statement that repositioning and expanding Hemlo into an underground operation would deliver benefits to the asset’s stakeholders in the coming years.
This year, Hemlo is expected to contribute 200,000-220,000 oz. gold, at all-in sustaining costs of US$1,200-$1,250 per ounce.
The Hemlo complex is approximately 350 km east of Thunder Bay.