November 2006

Commercial production restarts at Kiena

By A. Nichiporuk

Headframe at Kiena mining complex


It has been a busy year for Wesdome Gold Mines, owner of some 3,200 hectares of property in the Val d’Or mining camp. The company merged with River Gold Mines in February and kick-started the Kiena Mining Complex back into commercial production this summer.With a long-term aggressive exploration program slated to begin on its group of properties, the company is showing no signs of slowing down any time soon.

Falconbridge developed Kiena mine on the major S-50 Zone back in 1981, and by the following year, the mine had produced approximately 1.5 million ounces of gold. It was later sold to and exploited by Placer Dome until 1999, when it was purchased by McWatters. A few years later, the company closed Kiena to focus its energy on the Sigma mine. In the midst of financial difficulties, eventually leading to McWatters’ bankruptcy, Wesdome purchased the Kiena Complex in December 2003. The same year, it also bought the Shawkey and McKenzie Break properties.

Timing is everything

Wesdome acquired the surface and the underground installation of the Kiena Mining Complex for the developing of two exploration drifts—the first one of 4,2 kilometres towards the north to Wesdome project and the second of 2.5 kilometres—in order to access the extensive mineralization of the 22 Zone on the Shawkey properties east of Kiena. “As we developed the drifts, we discovered ore zones going to the north part of the old Kiena Property. Diamond drilling was then done to obtain more definition. When we found out that the zones were economic, we decided to put the mine back into production,” said Pierre H. Terreault, general manager, Kiena Mining Complex.

Needs

Included in the Kiena transaction was the mine, a 920-metre shaft, a 2,000 tonne per day carbon-in-leach mill, tailings facilities, permits, extensive underground and surface infrastructure, and over 30 pieces of underground equipment comprised of jumbos, scoops, trucks, graders, etc.

Not much was needed to reopen the mine. In January 2004, the ventilation was restarted and an inspection of the hoist and shaft was carried out, while the ice in the shaft house was left to melt. A short time later, workers went underground; dewatering was not necessary as the pumps had never been shut off. As well, thanks to its previous owners, Kiena mine was equipped with up-to-date technology, the mill was mostly automatic, and the hoist fully automated. One of the biggest challenges the company faced to reopen Kiena was in terms of manpower. “The hiring of staff, especially engineers and geologists, was one of our biggest problems. These two professions are becoming more and more rare in the industry,” noted Terreault.

You have to spend it to make it

With present resources capable of sustaining a five-year mine life, Kiena re-entered commercial production on August 1. Between January 2004 and July 2006, Wesdome injected $38 million on the property. As well, $2 million a year for three years that began in 2005, is being spent on exploration on these and other properties, including the five explo-ration targets the company had this year alone.

What the future holds

Currently, the company employs approximately 140 mine workers, supplemented by 50 or so contractors. The focus for 2007 will be on diamond drilling, upgrading production from 1,000 tonnes per day to 1,200 per day by February, and hiring another 10 to 15 workers. The company is targeting 50,000 ounces of gold next year, and 60,000 ounces for 2008 and 2009 from Kiena. Slowing down is not an option. In fact, the term is not even in Wesdome’s vocabulary.

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