Between Rouyn-Noranda & Val-d’Or, QC, Canada
LaRonde is Agnico Eagle’s flagship mine, located in the Abitibi region of northwestern Quebec. LaRonde has produced more than 5 million ounces of gold since it opened in 1988. LaRonde’s 2.2-km deep Penna Shaft is now the deepest single-lift shaft in the Western Hemisphere.
2015 production and costs
267,921 oz, $590/oz gold
The 7,200-tonne/day LaRonde mine and processing complex has produced more than 5 million ounces of gold, as well as valuable by-products. The mine still has 3.1 million ounces of gold in proven and probable reserves (18 million tonnes grading 5.31 grams of gold per tonne).
LaRonde achieved commercial production of its deep extension in November 2011, where approximately 90% of its ore is now mined. Gold production is expected to exceed 300,000 ounces per year from 2017 and continuing over the life of mine, reflecting the higher gold grades expected at depth. LaRonde currently has a mine life lasting through to 2024.
The LaRonde property is located in the southern portion of the Archean-age Abitibi volcanic belt, within the Bousquet Formation of the Blake River Group of volcanic rocks. The LaRonde deposits occur at the eastern end of the east-west-trending Doyon-Bousquet-LaRonde mining camp, which includes the Mouska, Doyon, Bousquet I and Bousquet II gold deposits. The most important regional structure is the Cadillac-Larder Lake fault zone, located approximately 2 km south of the LaRonde property.
Gold-copper and zinc-silver mineralization occurs in the form of massive and disseminated sulphide lenses. The presence of silver and base metals adds considerably to the value of LaRonde’s gold ore, reducing the total cash cost to produce each ounce of gold. Five different mineralized horizons are known to exist adjacent to the Penna Shaft. Deep drilling work on Zone 20 North has confirmed that both the gold-copper content and the thickness continue at depth, below the current reserves.
Access to LaRonde’s underground mining operation is through the 2.2-km-deep Penna Shaft, the deepest single-lift shaft in the Western Hemisphere. The LaRonde mine extension allows access to even deeper ore at the lower part of the orebody. Two mining methods are used at LaRonde – longitudinal retreat with cemented rock or paste backfill, and transverse open stoping with cemented rock backfill, paste or unconsolidated backfill.
Ore is processed at the LaRonde mineral processing complex, which includes copper and zinc flotation as well as precious metals recovery and refining. The processing plant produces doré bars containing gold and silver, as well as zinc and copper concentrates that also carry valuable gold and silver credits.
The plant has a daily capacity of 7,200 tonnes of ore, and has been expanded four times since it opened in 1988. In addition, a 1,500-tonne/day carbon-in-leach processing facility treats ore trucked from the nearby Lapa mine and refines its concentrates into doré bars. The plant also treats concentrate pulp trucked from the Goldex mill, which is subsequently leached with cyanide. The leached material is sent to the Lapa circuit for gold recovery.
Studies are ongoing to assess the potential to extend LaRonde’s mineral reserve base and carry out mining activities between the 311 and 371 levels. In 2016, as underground development progresses to the west, a key exploration focus is infill-drilling the western portion of the LaRonde orebody from the 311 to the 371 levels.
LaRonde is currently evaluating the potential to mine Bousquet Zone 5 using underground ramp access. This portion of the deposit contains indicated mineral resources of approximately 566,000 ounces of gold (9.3 million tonnes grading 1.90 g/t gold) and inferred gold mineral resources of approximately 109,000 ounces of gold (1.47 million tonnes grading 2.31 g/t gold). The mining method is likely to be similar to that employed at Goldex, and processing could utilize excess capacity from the Lapa circuit at LaRonde.
Previous property owners had partly exploited Bousquet Zone 5 using open pit and underground operations. Dewatering of the old pit was completed earlier in 2016 along with rehabilitation of the ramp portal; underground development is underway. A certificate of authorization was issued by the Quebec government to permit collection of a bulk sample. An internal technical study is expected to be completed by the end of 2016. Following the completion of technical studies and permitting, Bousquet Zone 5 could potentially be in production in the second half of 2018.