August 2007

Working on the Rock

Duck Pond means more jobs for Newfoundland

By C. Hersey

I remember, way back when I was a teenager graduating from high school I felt more than ready to venture out into the ‘real’ world. Having lived my entire life surrounded by nothing but trees, grass, and sky, I couldn’t wait a minute more to get out to the big city and live a busy, fast-paced life, surrounded by interesting people and exciting places. Oddly enough, everything that once seemed so fascinating and intriguing is now the basic mish-mash of my worst nightmare… and I want nothing more than to grow old in my middle-of-nowhere hometown, surrounded by nothing but my trees, grass, sky, and familiar faces. This sudden epiphany actually hit me as I was on the phone with Aur Resources’Duck Pond mine manager, Guy Belleau. The new mine is currently Aur’s only operation in Canada, and apparently people are fighting hard to get on board the Duck Pond workforce. Everyone is excited about the opportunity to stay and build their lives in the province they themselves grew up in.

Aur Resources, a Canadian mining and exploration company, began in the early 1980s when geologist Jim Gill decided it was high time to start finding mines to develop not for other people or companies, but for himself. Aur presently runs three mines—Quebrada Blanca, Andacallo (both in Chile), and, of course, the newest edition to the trio, Duck Pond, located in central Newfoundland. The new base-metal mine has come a long way since mineral exploration started in 1973 by Falconbridge and Noranda, and Gill is impressed with how well things have been running, hoping to make this the best mine it can be. In January 2002, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador finally approved the development of the project and construction began three years later in 2005. Construction was completed by December last year and the official opening was at long last held on May 9 of this year.

Another of Aur’s projects, Louvicourt (near Val-d’Or, Quebec), closed down in 2005 after 11 years of operation, around the same time development for Duck Pond began. The mine therefore holds great value in more ways than one. Aur Resources was fortunately able to keep all of their esteemed and experienced senior workers. Hard-working men and women, who would have wound up jobless after 11 years of employment,were easily able to transfer over to the new mine. Guy Belleau, for example, who is now the mine manager at Duck Pond, was at one time the superintendent at Louvicourt. Another reason why the project is oh-so-very-valuable—being Aur’s only project in Canada for the moment, the company was able to continue operations in its country of origin after having closed Louvicourt.

When construction began, there wasn’t much in place besides the exploration camp. Given the circumstances, the Duck Pond mine was developed using the ramp method because it was the most practical and economical amidst their options. It allowed for the use of trucks (ranging in size from 26 to 45 tonnes) to transport ore from the stopes to the surface. Other operations that are deeper or of different geology might use headframe or shaft access, but this method is the most efficient and inexpensive for this particular ore body and its location. The portal, or entrance, provides access to the mine ramp. This is where people, equipment, and materials enter and exit the mine. It’s also where the product finally makes its way to the surface and enters the mill process. The ramp into the mine is at a 15 per cent gradient. While not as steep as some ramps around the world, it serves its purpose perfectly.

The new copper/zinc mine has an anticipated life of about six years, but Gill said that the property is being explored in a number of ways that could prolong its shelf life. There are some resources identified in the Duck Pond deposit that need to be upgraded into reserves. Aur trusts that this year’s drilling will allow for those upgrades to be made. Perfect timing, because with today’s technology, more and more people are opting to work from home. So, as the demand for multiple phone lines, fax machines, and security systems increases, so in turn does the demand for copper.

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