March/April 2009

A supersized combo

Xstrata’s Kidd Mine and Kidd Metallurgical Site

By P. Diekmeyer

Aerial view of Xstrata Copper Kidd Mine north of Timmins, Ontario

What a difference just six months make. Late last year, Xstrata Copper announced a $121 million upgrade of its Kidd Mine operations in northern Ontario. The move, which would add 3.4 million tonnes of ore to its mine plan, has increased the planned production rate over the next eight years and extended projected mine life by one year. World economic growth and copper demand has been slowing, but no one foresaw that copper prices would plunge from their mid-year high of $4.08 per pound to $1.32 per pound by year end.

Yet Tom Semadeni, Kidd Mine’s general manager, puts a positive face on things. “Don’t forget that this mine has been in operation for more than 40 years,” said Semadeni. “During that time we have been though many ups and downs and we will almost certainly see more. We have a committed and knowledgeable group of people here who have demonstrated that the challenges associated with mining large tonnages at depth can be met. The improved production profile that has been enabled by the mine deepening helps to improve the financial situation in the long-term. You don’t schedule these sorts of moves based on short-term market fluctuations.”

Semadeni’s coolness under pressure is understandable, he has been around the track more than once, having spent more than 20 years as a mining engineer at various Falconbridge and Noranda operations. Semadeni took charge of the Kidd Mining operation in 2007, shortly after Xstrata acquired Falconbridge in November 2006.

Kidd Mine: a long and prestigious history

The Kidd metallurgical facilities are located in the Hoyle Township, about 22 kilometres northeast of Timmins, Ontario, while the mine site is located 27 kilometres north of Timmins in Kidd Township. The operations form a key part of the Canadian division of Brisbane-based Xstrata Copper, which is currently the world’s fourth largest copper producer, boasting an annual capacity of more than one million tonnes.

The Kidd Mine ore body, which ranks as one of the largest base metals deposits, was first identified in 1964. Mining at the site, which contains copper, zinc and several other metals, began as an open pit format and over time evolved into a traditional underground mine. Once the new investments in the Kidd operations (which have already begun) are completed, the copper/zinc mine, already the world’s deepest, will be deepened from its current 9,100 foot depth to 9,500 feet.

Capitalized work includes the development of three additional production levels and related infrastructure; deepening of the decline from the 9100 to the 9600 level loading pocket; a ramp to a shaft bottom cleanout; the addition of an ore handling system between the 9200 and the 9600 level loading pocket; and the extension of the ventilation and backfill systems to service the new portion of the mine.

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