From the beginning, Osisko Exploration Ltée’s president and CEO, Sean Roosen, decided the Canadian Malartic gold project was going to be different — and that it was going to be done right. With a gold deposit of 8.4 million ounces and a projected mine life of 14.3 years, the potential for a major win-win situation for the company and the community was evident. However, continued exploration and eventual development might eventually mean moving homes and re-locating people. Nevertheless, the prospect of defining a large, world-class gold mine that could lead to the creation of numerous jobs was enough to convince Roosen that doing it right on the first go-round was the only way to proceed.
“We’ve always prided ourselves on being progressive in terms of integrating mining and community, and being proactive at the beginning of a project, making sure not only to have a sustainable policy, but also to do what we say we’re going to do,” said Roosen. “We took this project to heart right from the beginning, going back to the way mining used to be: taking care of employees and not being dependant on government assistance. The days of sitting back and hoping that the government will take care of infrastructure problems is a thing of the past. To attract a good workforce and shareholders, you have to have a good balance, a spectrum.”
Roosen’s community-minded philosophy dates back to his 13 years working in project development in Africa. During that time, Roosen’s expertise lay in explaining the projects to communities that really had no idea about mining. “It was up to us to get them to understand the good and bad of mining,” he said. He added that they drew on that experience in West Africa when establishing their North American operations. “We went on the premise that we have to be proactive so that the community of Malartic understands why we are doing what we are doing, how it will impact them, and the long-term implications of living with a mine this big in their backyard.”
The mine and its potential
The 100 per cent owned Canadian Malartic gold property is located approximately 20 kilometres west of Val-d’Or in the heart of Quebec’s Abitibi Gold Belt, immediately south of the town of Malartic. The overall property covers 230 square kilometres and includes four previous underground producers, including the former underground Canadian Malartic mine. Between 1935 and 1983, production in the Malartic camp totalled over five million ounces for the Canadian Malartic, Barnat, Sladen and East Malartic mines.
The Canadian Malartic deposit was discovered in 1926, with production starting in 1935 and closing in 1965 after churning out 1,080,000 ounces of gold from 9.93 million tonnes of ore. The property remained idle after it closed, until 1979 when it was purchased by Lac Minerals. From 1980 to 1988, Lac Minerals explored the property with the objective of defining a near-surface economic deposit amenable to open pit mining. The exploration led to the definition of five near-surface gold zones forming an aggregate historical resource of approximately 8,160,000 tonnes at 1.98 grams per tonne.
The project was shelved when Barrick Gold Corp acquired Lac Minerals in the early 1990s. Barrick Gold subsequently sold the property to McWatters Mining in 2003, and a year later, McWatters went bankrupt. In late 2004, Osisko purchased a 100 per cent interest in the property from the McWatters bankruptcy trustee.
The main Canadian Malartic deposit is part of a three kilometre-long contiguous, east-west striking mineralized system that was historically mined by four independent underground operations. The Canadian Malartic deposit was mined primarily by underground long-hole stoping methods from 1935 to1965, the only underground bulk tonnage gold mine in Quebec.