Seen here from above, the Eskay Creek mine is located 80 kilometres north of Stewart, BC at an altitude of 800 metres.
Canada ranks seventh in the world in gold production,
according to a National Research Council report
published in 2004, with most of that production taking
place in eastern Canada. Ontario accounts for 55
per cent, followed by Quebec at 19 per cent. British Columbia
comes after Quebec with 16 per cent and the other provinces
and territories combined contribute the remaining.
Although western Canada is not the centre of Canadian gold
production, there is a long history of gold mining west of the
Manitoba-Ontario border, beginning with the gold rushes in
British Columbia and Yukon in the 19th century. Today there
are several productive gold mines that are active and, thanks
to the metal’s high price, it appears that gold mining will continue
to be an important part of the western Canadian mining
industry for years to come.
Consider, for example, Claude Resources Inc., a gold mining
and oil and gas company based in Saskatoon. Claude’s principal
asset is the Seabee gold mine, located 125 kilometres
northeast of La Ronge, Saskatchewan. A high-grade, narrowvein
underground operation, Seabee went into production in
1991 and since then has produced more than 706,000
ounces of gold.
The mill at the Seabee mine was expanded recently to a
capacity of 1,100 tonnes per day, big enough to process ore
expected from two recently discovered satellite deposits that
are within trucking distance.
The recent discoveries, the Porky Lake zone and Santoy
property, have both been advanced to the bulk sample
stage. Work has begun at the Porky site; the portal has
been collared and a planned
decline of 880 metres
underground has been
started. Bulk sampling at
Santoy will begin later in
Neil McMillan, president
and CEO, Claude
Resources, said Seabee
had approximately 684,000
tonnes of reserves and an additional 1.5 million tonnes of
resources as of February this year. Porky and Santoy
together have another 1.4 million tonnes of reserves and
up to 4 million tonnes of resources. Seabee, Porky, and
Santoy are expected together to produce over 50,000 oz.
of gold in 2006.
“We expect Seabee to go over 1 million ounces of production,”
McMillan said. “That will make it a real world-class mine.”
Claude Resources, which was started in 1980 by a geophysicist
from Quebec, purchased the Seabee property from
Cominco and started to put it into production. When the company
couldn’t raise enough money to continue, Seabee was
taken over by Saskatoon mining entrepreneur Bill McNeil in
1982 (McMillan succeeded McNeil as president of Claude in
1996 and as CEO in 2004.).
“The company began with serious financial difficulties, but we
refused to quit,” McMillan recalled. “We survived through the
toughest mining period in history and turned Seabee into
Saskatchewan’s biggest historical gold producer.”
McMillan said one of the reasons Claude Resources has succeeded
is because the company is good at what he calls ‘the
lost art of narrow-vein mining.’
“It requires breaking up ore with hand-held jackleg drills,” he
said. “It’s hard work and very few guys can do it anymore.
There’s a whole missing generation of miners with the necessary
experience. Fortunately we’ve been able to train young
miners to do it.”