Agnico Eagle embraces reduced operations for its new western Nunavut mine

Analysts are on site, looking at the economic potential of the entire ore body at Hope Bay

Agnico Eagle has begun a thorough economic evaluation of its recently acquired Hope Bay property and its three deposits. (File photo)

By Jane George

Agnico Eagle Mining Ltd. plans to stick to a schedule of reduced operations into 2022 for its recently acquired Hope Bay gold mine, says general manager Eric Steinmetzer.

The new owner’s plans for Hope Bay include completing an overview of the entire operation on the property’s three gold deposits, Doris, Madrid and Boston.

Analysts are now on site, looking at the full economic potential of the entire ore body, Steinmetzer said.

That analysis will take at least a year to complete, he said, and suggest whether or not Agnico Eagle needs to design a new mill or simply undertake an upgrade of the existing mill.

The mill has been problematic since its installation in 2015, but for now, it is “running decently,” Steinmetzer said.

Agnico Eagle, which operates two other gold mines in Nunavut, is just settling into Hope Bay, two months after buying out the mine’s previous owner, TMAC Resources Inc.

“I’ve heard some excellent feedback,” said Alex Buchan, the Cambridge Bay-based manager of community relations for Agnico Eagle, about the company’s latest acquisition.

“The people I’ve talked to within the hamlets and communities, former employees, people in the street who come by our office, are very pleased. Agnico Eagle is a known Nunavut operator that has a very good reputation. So it’s well known in the Kitikmeot, and so people are very happy, without any exceptions.”

Recent Agnico Eagle financial reports said on a quarterly basis Hope Bay is expected to produce 18,000 to 20,000 ounces of gold, at a total cash cost per ounce of $950 to $975.

Payments agreed to under Inuit impact and benefit agreements have continued to flow to the Kitikmeot Inuit Association and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.

Disclosures made to the federal government show that in 2019 TMAC paid about $5 million in royalties and fees to NTI, $3.76 million to the KIA and $1 million in property taxes and fees to the Government of Nunavut.

The Hope Bay goldfield, which is roughly 80 kilometres long and 20 km wide, is located about 125 km southwest of Cambridge Bay and 700 km northeast of Yellowknife. (File image)

Since last September, the schedule at Hope Bay has been reduced to three weeks of production, followed by three weeks of maintenance, with only 150 to 180 workers on site.

There are currently no Nunavut employees at Hope Bay, although nine former Nunavut residents who live in the south are still part of the mine’s workforce.

In March 2020, the pandemic prompted TMAC to send its Nunavut-based workers home.

TMAC then terminated its direct hires in September 2020 at the end of the temporary lay-off period, Buchan said.

So the re-integration of Nunavut-based workers will have to start with re-hiring, as opposed to the two other Agnico Eagle mines in Nunavut, Meliadine and Meadowbank, whose employees are still on the payroll, he said.

But Buchan said a reintegration plan for Hope Bay workers has already been submitted to the GN.

“Our message is clear: we will hire every Nunavummiut who has been working at Hope Bay when we’re allowed to do so,” he said. “The timing of that is dependent on the approval of our reintegration plan which has been proposed and submitted to the public health officer.”

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