Agnico-Eagle Mines is targeting gold production of 1 million to 1.1 million oz during 2010, more than double its 2009 production of 492,972 oz and more than triple its 2008 production of 276,762 oz. Agnico-Eagle has brought five new mines into production over the past two years, the most recent being the Meadowbank open-pit operation in Nunavut, Canada, which poured its first gold in late February 2010. Meadowbank is expected to add 300,000 oz to Agnico-Eagle production during 2010.
Life-of-mine, gold production at Meadowbrook is expected to average about 350,000 oz/y through 2019. However, a study in progress during the first quarter of 2010 was looking into the possibility of increasing mill throughput from the design rate of 8,500 mt/d to 10,000 mt/d. Agnico-Eagle anticipates the increased rate could be achieved by mid-2012.
Elsewhere, Agnico-Eagle’s new Pinos Altos open-pit/underground operations in Chihuahua, Mexico, achieved commercial production in November 2009. Payable production in the fourth quarter of 2009 totaled 12,944 oz of gold and 100,000 oz of silver at total cash costs of $596/oz of gold. These costs are expected to decline in 2010 as throughput improves. Payable production in 2010 is expected to total 150,000 oz of gold and 1.6 million oz of silver. Life-of-mine, production is expected to average about 170,000 oz/y of gold and 2.5 million oz/y of silver through 2028.
The Pinos Altos mill processed an average of 1,863 mt/d during the fourth quarter of 2009, substantially lower than the design rate of 4,000 mt/d due to ongoing issues with the tailings filters (more clay material in the ore than expected). However, as of mid-February 2010, the mill was achieving throughput in excess of 3,000 mt/d and further improvements were anticipated. Additional tailings filtration capacity has been ordered for installation during the third quarter of 2010, and Agnico-Eagle anticipates mill capacity could increase to 5,000 mt/d as a result of this $15-million installation.
Agnico-Eagle’s Lapa mine in northwest Quebec achieved commercial production in May 2009. Lapa ore is processed through a dedicated circuit at the mill at Agnico-Eagle’s flagship LaRonde mine. Payable production for the partial year totaled 52,602 oz of gold at total cash costs of $751/oz. These costs are expected to decline in 2010 as operating efficiencies are achieved. Payable production in 2010 is expected to total about 115,000 oz of gold, the same rate as is expected annually over the life of the mine through 2015.
Agnico-Eagle’s new Kittila mine in northern Finland also achieved commercial production in May 2009. Payable gold production during the year totaled 71,838 oz at total cash costs of $668/oz. Production in 2010 is expected to total 147,100 oz. Life-of-mine production is expected to average about 150,000 oz/y through 2023. A study is under way examining the possibility of increasing the Kittila production rate, with results of the study expected to be released in 2011.
Agnico-Eagle’s Goldex mine in northwest Quebec achieved commercial production in August 2008. The mine produced 148,849 oz of gold in 2009 at total cash costs of $366/oz and is projected to produce 164,000 oz in 2010. Life-of-mine, production is expected to average 160,000 oz/y through 2017. In 2009, Agnico-Eagle’s board of directors approved expansion of the mine from 6,900 mt/d to at least 8,000 mt/d. The increased mining rate is expected to be realized in early 2011.
Agnico-Eagle’s LaRonde mine in northwest Quebec has been in production since 1988. LaRonde’s total cash costs were $103/oz in 2009 on gold production of 203,494 oz, placing it among the lowest cash cost gold mines in the industry. In 2008, total cash costs were $106/oz on gold production of 216,208 oz.
Gold production at LaRonde during 2010 is expected to fall to about 180,000 oz due to lower gold grades. Grades at the mine will not increase until late 2011 when deeper, gold-rich ore is accessed via the new internal shaft of the LaRonde Extension.