TABLE OF CONTENTS Oct 2015 - 0 comments

Canadian Malartic mine puts small Quebec Town on the international map

Downtown gold mine

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By: Russell Noble

Small towns in Quebec range in size from the smallest, Barkmere (pop. 58), to one of the larger, Shawinigan (pop. 50,060) and, as can be imagined, there are many bigger and smaller ones in between.

In fact, according to the federal Ministry of Municipal Affairs, Regions and Land Occupancy, between Barkmere and Shawinigan, there are at least 40 other towns considered ‘small’ by the government’s 2011 statistics, and one of note is the Town of Malartic, with a population of only 3,449 people.

 But, unlike all of the other ‘small’ Quebec towns, the Town of Malartic is perhaps a little more newsworthy because it is ‘big world’ by comparison to the others thanks to the Canadian Malartic gold and silver mine that is located literally steps from downtown.

To be more precise, there are exactly 96 steps (circled in photo) separating one of the larger gold and silver mines in Canada from the town’s quaint houses and pristine playground and recreational centre.

Located on Highway 117 in the heart of the prolific Abitibi Gold Belt in Quebec, approximately 25km west of Val-d’Or, the Canadian Malartic Mine has been a mainstay of the town’s economy since 2005 when then-owner Osisko Mining Corporation initiated exploration drilling, followed by construction, until the first gold pour six years later in April, 2011.

Osisko operated the mine until June, 2014, when it was acquired jointly by Agnico Eagle Mines Limited (50 per cent) and Yamana Gold Corporation (50 per cent).

Since then, the mine has continued to grow to the point that it is now the largest operating gold mine in Canada... and its partners are continuously working to keep that status. The mine poured its millionth ounce of gold in November, 2013, and with 55,000 tonnes of ore scheduled to be mined from its open pit daily, Canadian Malartic Mine expects to produce approximately 560,000 ounces of gold (on a 100 per cent basis), and about the same number of ounces of silver in 2015.

The mine has 8.66 million ounces of gold in proven and probable reserves; 254 million tonnes grading 1.06 grams of gold per tonne, with a mine life expected to last through 2028 with an extension project.

With these numbers, it’s no wonder both owners are now continuing to work on several mining and milling initiatives to further optimize the operation.

As mentioned earlier, the Canadian Malartic property lies in the Abitibi Gold Belt and covers a 3.5-km long section of metavolcanic rocks that generally strike northwest to west and dip steeply to vertical.

Like many of today’s mine sites, the property includes past-producing gold mines. Subsequent drilling and compilation work outlined an economic gold mineralization system measuring 3.5km long by 350m, with a variable true thickness ranging from 40 to 270m to a vertical depth of 410m from surface. The system is open to the west and to the south at depth.

Because of its low grade and proximity to the surface, conventional open-pit mining methods were chosen. The mine plan called for three phases to locate the ramp entry, the mill site, and waste-dump areas to minimize haulage distance and therefore, help control costs.

Haul trucks access the pit via an 8% to 10% decline ramp designed with a maximum width of 35m, and the average strip ratio in the pit is 2.40:1 (waste:ore). 

Including an extension project, the final pit will measure 3500m along strike and 920m wide, with a final depth of 410m.

The mine is equipped with a fleet of Cat 6060 28-m3 electric-driven hydraulic shovels, Cat 6050 26-m3 backhoe, L-1850 LeTourneau wheel loaders, Cat 994 wheel loader, and Cat 793F 217-tonne class rigid trucks.

The mine is constantly active, and a well-maintained equipment fleet is needed to meet its production targets. Because equipment and noise go hand-in-hand, the owners have gone to great lengths to limit the noise levels from the mining operations. Various mitigation measures have been implemented, such as: the installation of noise-suppression devices on the larger vehicles, the design of noise-barrier walls, and many more. As a further step towards being a good corporate citizen to its nearby neighbours, the company waters the pit’s loading surfaces, roadways and ramp to help reduce dust and improve air quality.

When it comes to drilling and blasting, all activities are designed to control blast-induced vibrations and noise pressure on the Town of Malartic, and the mine’s operating procedures also restrict blasting when winds blow toward the town.

To further help reduce the mine’s impact on the community, a green wall was built along the northern limit of the pit in 2011 by Osisko Mining to shield the town from noise and dust from the open pit and processing plant.

Inside the 150-m-wide buffer zone, a landscaped ridge was built mainly from rock and topsoil from the pre-stripping mining works.

The landscaped ridge is 15m high where the residential concentration is higher, and 5 to 6m-high in non-residential sectors.

A security fence at the bottom of the ridge on the town’s side restricts access to the mining activities, but as mentioned earlier, a 96-step structure leads to an observation platform overlooking the open pit.

The view from the top is spectacular as it gives visitors a clear look at the size of the project, including the entire pit and haul roads leading to the mill on the far side of the pit.

It’s from that location that the company processes its 55,000 tonnes of ore per day. Run-of-mine ore is transported to a crushing circuit composed of a gyratory crusher that feeds two cone crushers. Crushed ore is stockpiled in a covered pile, then conveyed to a semi-autogenous grinding circuit followed by three identical ball mills, each in closed circuit with hydrocyclones.

Two pebble crushers handle the oversize material from the SAG mill. Slurry from the mill is thickened to about 50 per cent solid before being fed to a leach-tank circuit for conventional cyanidation, followed by carbon-in-pulp processing technology.

And then, dore bars containing gold and silver are poured.

Building up to the final pour is what mining is all about, and for Agnico Eagle and Yamana Gold, their investment into the Canadian Malartic Mine has been rewarding in this regard. But, like all good miners, the companies have also shown they’re great corporate citizens too by demonstrating their care and concern for the environment.

With plans to be ‘downtown’ for at least another dozen years or so, including the extension project, Canadian Malartic Mine has made it clear to the residents of the Town of Malartic that it fully intends to be good neighbours to the end, and beyond.

As with many large mining projects, the environmental side of its presence can have an impact, but in the case of the Canadian Malartic Mine, the operators are determined to make their existence as minimal as possible.

To reduce the environmental impact, tailings are detoxified and thickened prior to being pumped to a tailing impoundment facility. By doing this, tailings thickening reduces the required size and footprint of the tailing impoundment, and recycles more of the water back to the plant for re-use.

And any discharge water, always an environmental concern, is always treated prior to being discharged back into the environment.

The tailings are also treated to reduce cyanide levels before they are discharged into containment cells in tailings and sedimentation pond areas from the previous mines that once occupied the same site.

All in all, the Canadian Malartic Mine in the Town of Malartic, Quebec, is a big project in a small town. Having a harmonious relationship with the community is an ongoing process forming part of the success of this operation.  


Aerial photo of Canadian Malartic Mine by Hugo Lacroix clearly shows the size of the open-pit mine and its proximity to the Town of Malartic.
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Caption: Aerial photo of Canadian Malartic Mine by Hugo Lacroix ...
A close and more detailed look at the mill and maintenance facilities at the Canadian Malartic Mine. Photo by Hugo Lacroix.
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Water trucks constantly dampen pit roads to help keep the dust from heavy haul trucks reaching the neighbouring community. Photo by Hugo Lacroix.
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On-going drilling, blasting and the removal of materials makes the mine one of the more productive miners in Canada. Photo by Hugo Lacroix.
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A picturesque photo of the pit shows the various areas of activity at night. Photo by Hugo Lacroix.
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An inside look at the mill where the company processes ore from the nearby open pit.  Photo by Mathieu Dupuis.
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Covered stairs (bottom right) allow visitors from the park and playground area to climb the 96 steps to view the mining operations. Photo by Russell Noble.
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