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.
2016 production and costs
Production - 305,788 oz gold
Production costs - $587/oz gold
Total cash costs - $501/oz gold
8 years; another two years with LaRonde Zone 5
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 5.40 grams of gold per tonne) as of December 31, 2016. This is the highest gold grade of any of the Company’s producing mines.
LaRonde achieved commercial production of its deep extension in November 2011, where approximately 87% of its ore is now mined. Gold production is expected to be 315,000 ounces in 2017 and to average 363,000 ounces per year from 2018 through 2019, 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. LaRonde Zone 5 (formerly referred to as Bousquet Zone 5) is a gold-only orebody approximately 2.5 kilometres west of the Penna Shaft on property 100% owned by the Company. LaRonde Zone 5 is open at depth.
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. The nearby LaRonde Zone 5 development project will be mined from underground ramp access using a longhole open stoping method with paste backfill; production is expected to begin in 2018.
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. Ore from the LaRonde Zone 5 development project will be treated at the Lapa circuit, which will become available after the 2017 Lapa mine closure.
The LaRonde 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.
An infill drill program is continuing from LaRonde’s 311 level to the 371 level, with a focus on the western portion of the deposit where recent drilling has encountered higher-grade mineralization between the 311 and 340 levels. These new high-grade intersections are now interpreted as being a distinct lens of massive sulphide mineralization from the main LaRonde 3 horizon. In 2016, the first mineral reserves were declared in the eastern portion of LaRonde 3 and additional inferred mineral resources were declared in the western portion of LaRonde 3. Further drilling is being carried out to assess this new potential and the vertical extent of the mineralization. Studies are ongoing to evaluate the potential to mine below the currently planned 3.1 kilometres at LaRonde. In 2017, the Company expects to spend $1.9 million on 12,900 metres of exploration drilling and $1.7 million on 15,200 metres of conversion drilling at La India.
Previous property owners had partly exploited LaRonde Zone 5 (formerly referred to as Bousquet Zone 5) using open pit and underground operations. Following the completion of a positive internal technical study, LaRonde Zone 5 was approved in February 2017 for development (subject to permitting approval). Permits are expected to be received by mid-2018 with mining expected to commence shortly thereafter and continue through 2026. LaRonde Zone 5 is estimated to contain mineral reserves of 423,000 ounces (6.3 million tonnes grading 2.10 g/t gold) as of December 31, 2016.
The project will be mined from underground access. Dewatering of the old pit was completed in 2016 along with rehabilitation of the ramp portal, and underground development began in 2016. All of the ore will be trucked to the surface before being trucked to the nearby LaRonde mill complex. The daily mining rate will average approximately 2,000 tonnes/day starting in 2021. Average annual production is expected to be approximately 45,000 ounces per year at full capacity.
LaRonde Zone 5 gold recovery is estimated at 92% and the average minesite cost per tonne is estimated at approximately C$65. The life-of-mine average total cash costs per ounce are expected to be approximately $784, and the all in sustaining costs to be approximately $850 per ounce. The total capital cost for the project is approximately $80 million, including $14 million for a bulk sample (underway), $46 million for initial capital, $14 million in sustaining capital and $6 million in closure costs.
Drilling continues at LaRonde Zone 5, including 5,200 metres of conversion drilling at a cost of $0.4 million in 2017. The Company is evaluating additional opportunities to create value such as mining potential mineralization beneath LaRonde Zone 5 with additional trucks. Additional material may be able to be treated at the LaRonde mill, which would reduce the current mine life at LaRonde Zone 5, but increase the value of the project.