The Kittila mine in northern Finland is the largest primary gold producer in Europe. Kittila achieved commercial production on May 1, 2009, becoming Agnico Eagle’s first mine to open outside of Canada. Since open-pit mining was completed in 2012, Kittila has been an underground-only operation.
2015 production and costs
177,374 oz, $709/oz gold
The Kittila mine is located in the Lapland region of northern Finland, approximately 900 km north of Helsinki and 150 km north of the Arctic Circle. With a mine life estimated through 2035, Kittila is our longest-life mine; its proven and probable gold reserves contain 4.4 million ounces (28 million tonnes at 4.80 g/t gold). Ore has been mined from underground since 2010. The 4,000-tonne/day operation is expected to produce about 200,000 ounces of gold in 2016, and to average 195,000 ounces of gold annually from 2017 through 2018.
The Kittila property covers 252 square km, stretching 25 km along the Suurikuusikko Trend, a major gold-bearing shear zone. The mine area includes a group of six gold deposits along a 4.5-km segment of the trend. The largest of the deposits are the Suuri, Roura and Rimpi zones that contain most of the current reserves and resources at Kittila. The other deposits are the Etela and Ketola zones and the new Sisar Zone. Approximately 15 km north of the mine is the Kuotko deposit, which is being studied through exploration and metallurgical testing as a potential satellite open pit to the Kittila operations.
The region around the Kittila mine is underlain by mafic volcanic and sedimentary rocks of the Kittila Greenstone Belt oriented nearly vertical. This greenstone belt is similar to those hosting our Canadian deposits in Quebec’s Abitibi region and Nunavut. At the contact point between iron-rich and magnesium-rich rocks lies a 100- to 200-metre-thick structural zone known as the “Suurikuusikko Trend”. This trend hosts the Kittila deposit, where multiple mineralized zones have been traced over a strike length of more than 25 km.
Work has focused on a 4.5-km segment of the Suurikuusikko Trend that hosts the six main zones of the known gold reserves and resources – Ketola, Etela, Suuri, Roura, Rimpi and Sisar. The Sisar Zone is located to the east of the main Kittila ore zone, and in close proximity to existing underground infrastructure. Kittila ore is refractory, making gold extraction relatively difficult because the gold is generally locked inside the two main sulphide minerals – arsenopyrite and arsenic-rich pyrite.
Underground mining operations began at Kittila in early 2010 at the Suuri and Roura deposits. The underground method is open stoping followed by delayed backfill. Approximately 13.5 km of tunnels are developed each year to ensure sufficient ore production is available to keep the mill supplied. After extraction, stopes are filled with cemented backfill or paste backfill to allow the safe mining of adjacent stopes. Ore is trucked to the surface crusher using underground haul trucks via the 4,400-metre-long ramp access system.
Approximately 4,500 tonnes of ore/day are fed to the processing plant. The ore is treated through grinding, flotation, pressure oxidation, and carbon-in-leach circuits. Kittila has Agnico Eagle’s only pressure oxidation circuit (autoclave), which is required because of the ore’s refractory nature. Gold from the leach circuit is stripped from the carbon and recovered from solution using electrowinning, and then smelted in a furnace and poured into doré bars. Gold recovery of 86% is expected over the life of the mine.
The underground ramp is being extended to reach the deeper portions of the Rimpi Zone, and it is also providing further underground drill access to test for additional depth extensions of the Rimpi, Suuri, Roura and the Sisar mineralized zones. The Sisar Zone could potentially provide an additional source of underground ore to the Kittila mill with relatively little additional underground development. Additionally, 15 km north of Kittila, we are exploring the Kuotko deposit, with metallurgical testing and studies being carried out to assess the viability of mining the deposit as a satellite open pit.
Exploration has successfully increased the reserves and resources of the Kittila mine each year. In 2015, a new sub-parallel zone of mineralization – known as the Sisar Zone – was discovered by exploration drilling from the underground ramp being driven towards the deeper portion of the Rimpi Zone.
The Sisar Zone is located to the east of the main Kittila ore zone, and is in close proximity to existing underground infrastructure. The Sisar Zone could potentially provide an additional source of underground ore to the Kittila mill with relatively little additional underground development, should further drilling outline an economic deposit. An initial inferred mineral resource of approximately 651,000 ounces of gold (3.4 million tonnes grading 5.91 grams per tonne of gold) has been declared. In 2016, approximately $5 million will be spent on additional drilling to infill and further expand the Sisar mineralization and evaluate its potential as a new mining horizon at Kittila.