HudBay Minerals held a sparsely attended meeting in Snow Lake's Lawrie Marsh Hall on June 26. Karl Hoover, the company's Lalor Concentrator project manager, began proceedings at 7 p.m. by introducing the various HudBay Minerals personnel in attendance. After providing an overview of the evening's events, he delivered some background on both himself and the project.
Aided by a PowerPoint, Hoover commenced the formal presentation and began by going back to the 2007 date when ore was first discovered on the Lalor Property. He noted that the property has been drilled continuously ever since. Reviewing a timeline of the discovery of Lalor's many zones, he stated that HudBay Minerals first began collecting samples for metallurgical test work in 2008. "This was a very extensive piece of work," said Hoover. "We collected samples from nine holes, 1,600 kilograms of samples all together and these were sent to SGS, which is a testing lab in Vancouver. We did all the normal types of test work that you do when you get into an orebody like this." Hoover added that they weren't quite done their test work yet. They needed to do more work on development of the paste backfill process and also on gold recovery. Later this year, HudBay Minerals will be running small tonnages of Lalor ore through the existing mill and this will give them the opportunity to fine-tune their flow sheet, he said.
"Eventually we did a trade-off study," Hoover continued. "When we first got into this orebody, the original plan was that we would be running the ore through the existing Snow Lake concentrator. In 2010, we started looking at the possibility of building a new concentrator, and at the time hired SNC-Lavalin to do some preliminary cost estimates to compare the option of refurbishing the old concentrator to that of building a new one."
Later in 2011, HudBay Minerals contracted AMEC to provide a more accurate cost estimate for the construction of the new concentrator, and the decision to build that new plant was made last July. Hoover noted that building a new concentrator has a number of advantages. The first one being that it eliminates the 15-kilometre haul from the new mine to the existing mill. "And with the kind of tonnage that we would run through the existing concentrator," said Hoover. "There could be somewhere in the area of 100 trucks a day travelling between the new mine and the existing mill, which is a lot of traffic running down the road and a lot of potential for incidents on the road." The next advantage Hoover pointed to was the fact that with a new concentrator HudBay Minerals wouldn't be limited by the older equipment in the existing mill, and could design what best suits the mine. "We were basically limited to about 3,500 tons per day if we ran the existing mill, " said Hoover. "When we designed the new mill, we set the target at 4,500 tonnes per day. In fact we are designing the grinding circuit with a little more capacity than that, so there is definitely some upside potential on that 4,500 tonnes per day." One further gain to building a new concentrator is that it allows for the production of paste backfill, which Hoover says is the best ground support system for the mine. "It improves the recovery of ore from the mine and reduces the amount of tailings that you have to send to the impoundment area," he further reasoned. Hoover also stated that the new mill would allow them to take full advantage of a number of technologies that were not available in the 1970s when the existing mill was constructed. In this respect, he cited new mill drive systems, a process control system, and the increased use of recycled water.
Moving on to the employment opportunities that will result when full production is reached at the Lalor Concentrator, he said it will employee approximately 70 people in the areas of supervision, technical staff, trades and operations. "That number will also include (people) running a new assay lab that will be attached to the concentrator," said Hoover. "It will include the analysis of gold, silver, copper, and zinc." HudBay Minerals expects that most of the new mill's workforce will come from the existing Snow Lake Concentrator. The 37 employees currently employed at the Snow Lake Mill, include some additional personnel hired to process the Lalor ore, expected to be coming to them later this year. "Additional employees will be hired as needed," said Hoover.
The project manager then got into the scheduling of events and processes for the new concentrator. He explained that the Environment Act application was in progress and submission was being targeted for July 31. As well, procurement of what he termed as “long lead items” is well underway. He noted that orders have been placed for the new jaw crusher and grinding mills; additionally basic engineering is in progress and the geotechnical analysis of the site is completed. "We are estimating that we will start construction of the concentrator in the second quarter 2013," Hoover said. "That, of course, is contingent upon successful approval of the Environment Act licence."
Continuing, Hoover stated that training and orientation of personnel for the new mill will begin in the third quarter of 2014, and that commissioning of the concentrator would follow in the fourth quarter. At that point, employees from the existing concentrator would be transferred to the new Lalor mill and the Snow Lake mill would be shut down and mothballed. "With known reserves," Hoover added. "Lalor is expected to operate until 2027."
From here the presentation evolved to plans for the Anderson Tailings Impoundment area. It was appropriate that the assembly concluded on this subject, as other than a few cursory questions about the new mill's processes and footprint, the majority of queries were in respect to this topic. Hoover explained that HudBay Minerals would continue to use the Anderson Tailings Impoundment area for the Lalor operation. However, a new dam construction project would be instituted and carried out over three phases. He said phase one of the project will raise the water level in Anderson by 3.6 metres and it will be sufficient for the Lalor Project. The future phases in the dam's construction will be dependent on exploration in the Snow Lake area. Hoover also touched on the Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation project that will see approximately 3.5 kilometres of Highway PR 392 re-aligned around the current Anderson Dam area. He said this will allow for new dam construction and improve highway visibility safety concerns.
As with the existing mill, water from Anderson will be pumped to the Lalor Concentrator for use as process water. Hoover pointed out that both the new concentrator's tailings and water pipelines will follow the existing rail bed from Anderson and along a short section of PR 395.
"In terms of production," Hoover continued. "We of course are building a concentrator that will operate 24/7 for about 362 days of the year. We will plan for an availability of 92 per cent and that allows us to shut down approximately once every two weeks for maintenance." He concluded by reiterating that the new concentrator's daily throughput will be 4,500 tonnes, and that both copper and zinc concentrates will be trucked to Flin Flon, with the copper con being sold, the zinc concentrates being refined in Flin Flon, and a paste backfill produced for use underground.
At this point, Hoover invited Rick Myrfield, project manager from AMEC, to give a 3-D presentation on the concentrator and processes. This was quite interesting and allowed everyone to grasp the size and complexity of the project.
After this portion of the meeting concluded, Hoover once again took the podium and called for questions. Although slow to start, a lengthy and informative dialogue took place between Ron Langan and Don Gowans and Jay Cooper HudBay Minerals assistant superintendant of environmental,. Numerous questions – all on the Anderson Tailings Impoundment area – in regard to the work that will be done, the safeguards in place, the possibility of using an alternate site … even the state of the tailings impoundment area in Flin Flon were methodically answered by Cooper.
As the time was beginning to stretch on, Brad Lantz Vice-president of HudBay Minerals' Manitoba Business Unit, asked that the gents corner Cooper after the session and allow others to ask questions. The meeting concluded and attendees were treated to coffee, dainties, some nice HudBay Minerals related swag and further clarification for those who required it