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.
2016 production and costs
Production - 202,508 oz gold
Production costs - $701/oz gold
Total cash costs - $699/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 2034, Kittila is our longest-life mine; its proven and probable gold reserves contain 4.5 million ounces (30 million tonnes at 4.64 g/t gold) as of December 31, 2016. Ore has been mined from underground since 2010. The 4,500-tonne/day operation is expected to produce about 190,000 ounces of gold in 2017, and to average 205,000 ounces of gold annually from 2018 through 2019.
The Kittila property covers 215 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. The Company is carrying out studies to evaluate the economics of increasing throughput rates at Kittila to 2.0 million tonnes per year from the current rate of 1.6 million tonnes. This increased mining rate scenario could be supported by the development of the Rimpi and Sisar zones.
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.
Exploration has successfully increased the reserves and resources of the Kittila mine each year. 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. In 2017, the Company expects to spend $7.7 million on 30,600 metres of exploration drilling and $3.2 million on 22,400 metres of conversion drilling at Kittila.
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. Initial mineral reserves were estimated at the Sisar Zone at year-end 2016 (included in the total Kittila reserves). Drilling is ongoing to further evaluate the Sisar Zone, where mineralization has now been outlined to a depth of 2.0 kilometres below surface. The goal of the deep drilling program (including Sisar) is to expand the mineral resources in the northern part of the property and demonstrate the economic potential of the Sisar Zone as a new mining horizon at Kittila. The Sisar Zone could potentially provide an additional source of underground ore to the Kittila mill with relatively little additional underground development.