Seven of 22 new haul trucks have been commissioned at Cortez. (Photo: Nevada Gold Mines)

Leading Nevada-based gold producer invests in its people and its operations

By Steve Fiscor, Editor-in-Chief

Nevada Gold Mines (NGM), the largest gold-producing complex in the world with four operating gold mining complexes in northern Nevada, was formed in 2019 with the combination of Barrick and Newmont assets.  It is operated by and 61.5% owned by Barrick. With a focus on investing in its people and its operations, the company is driving optimization and unlocking the full potential of the NGM complex. The company consistently produces more than 3 million ounces per year. So far this year, even with several planned maintenance downs, NGM has produced 1.4 million ounces, with a stronger second half expected.

The company has many major projects underway which will continue to drive value delivery. The plant upgrades that were completed at the Goldstrike and Gold Quarry mines will increase production and gold recovery, and lower operating costs in the long run. NGM recently commissioned the third shaft at Turquoise Ridge and the company also decided to purchase a new fleet of haul trucks to support the next 10 years of open pit mining at Cortez and Carlin operations.

In addition to the operational upgrades, the company has implemented some management changes as well. A year ago, the company appointed Peter Richardson as executive managing director. He had previously worked with Lundin Mining. “Safety is my highest priority and it’s the same for Barrick and NGM,” Richardson said. “And the changes to the management teams are bringing newfound energy to NGM.”

Completing Major Projects

NGM commissioned the third shaft at Turquoise Ridge during Q4 2022. The project, which started in 2017, took about six years to complete and is key to increased production from continued growth at Turquoise Ridge. The 24-ft-diameter shaft is 3,246 ft deep, making it the second deepest shaft in Nevada. Equipped with a man cage and a service cage, it’s used both for miners and materials as well as production. The shaft has two 14-ton skips, and the system is capable of hoisting 5,000 tons of ore per day to the surface.

The $300 million project has already started to improve the production at Turquoise Ridge. As mining advanced in the orebody, it moved steadily away from the mine’s two existing shafts. “The new shaft is more central to the current underground workings as well as future development,” Richardson said. “From a productivity and flexibility standpoint, it reduced travel times within the mine. It has also had a positive impact on ventilation. We can now move more air through the headings and that will have a positive impact for the mine as it ramps production up in the future.”

Earlier this year, the Goldstrike autoclave was down for scheduled maintenance on the grinding circuit and the autoclaves. On the backend, the resin-in-leach system was converted to a carbon-in-leach (CIL) system, Richardson explained. “That side of the plant was restored to its original configuration,” he said. That project, which was a little more than $30 million, was completed in February. “It was commissioned in March and we’re seeing good results, such as lower operating costs and improved recoveries for the ores that we are treating,” Richardson said.

The Gold Quarry roaster is also being upgraded. “We are making improvements to the Gold Quarry roaster in a phased approach,” Richardson said. “We had our annual maintenance outage there in April, changing out the bucket elevator system and upgrading the quench tanks. We are currently building new cooling towers in parallel, and those will be tied into the existing system later next year. The items that needed to be done this year have been completed as planned. We expect to complete the entire project in Q3 2024 and are expecting a 15-20% increase in capacity.

“We have already seen productivity improvements at Gold Quarry,” Richardson said. “We also made improvements to the grinding circuit, which further improved throughput.”

Cortez Complex

The Cortez complex consists of five open pits namely, Cortez Pits, Crossroads, Gold Acres, Pipeline and Robertson (project), in addition to two underground mines namely Cortez Hills Underground and Goldrush.

Cortez 2022 production profile was impacted in several ways. First, lower than planned open pit equipment reliability due to an aging fleet slowed mining in the Crossroads pit over the last year, particularly on stripping waste. However, going forward, this issue was remedied by acquiring a new Komatsu truck fleet already arriving at Cortez this year. “We have already received and commissioned seven trucks during the first half of this year and we’re really happy with their performance so far.” All 22 trucks for Cortez should be up and running by early 2024. In addition, unmodelled additional leach and less oxide mill ore delayed ounce production as it takes longer to get it off the pad. A decision was made to mine more oxide ore at Cortez Hills offsetting refractory ore. Goldrush continued to ramp up production during the year, albeit at a slower rate than originally anticipated.

NGM is currently awaiting final permits for Goldrush. The draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was reviewed by the public in the summer of 2022 and the final EIS is in the last stages or preparation before it will be published and made available for public review. After this review, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) can issue a Record of Decision (ROD) and project construction can be finalized. “We’re expecting the ROD decision by the end of this year,” Richardson said.

Adding to the already world-class potential of Goldrush is Barrick’s adjacent Fourmile project, which on its own also boasts Tier 1 potential.

Future Projects

NGM has new projects on the horizon as well. A 200-megawatt solar array is being built near its power plant. “We’re in the midst of assembling thousands of solar panels,” Richardson said. “That project is slated to be completed Q3 2024. It will further reduce our GHG footprint and offset electrical demand. The coal power plant is being upgraded to a co-fired natural gas plant and is scheduled to be complete in Q2 2024.

Future processing plant improvements are underway at Turquoise Ridge. “Last year, we changed some of the rings on our CIL tanks,” Richardson said. “We also replaced older carbon screens with a newer Kemix technology. Before the end of next year, our five remaining tanks will also be converted.”

NGM is building a paste backfill plant for the Goldstrike mine that will be completed next year. The company is also constructing two new portals and declines for the Pete Bajo and Rita K mines.

An exploration drilling program in the greater Leeville area is helping NGM to better understand the key ore controls around those deposits. “Leeville has been operating for several years now, delivering several million ounces, and we’re trying to determine in what direction the orebody will take us,” Richardson said. “We have seen some encouraging drilling results for the region just north of Leeville.”

Improving the Culture

A transition in management was already taking place at NGM prior to Richardson’s arrival. The company was reviewing what was working well, and where it could improve, he explained. “The objective was to fully integrate the Barrick DNA and have a unified and integrated approach towards achieving our goals and targets,” Richardson said.

To support the change, the company has promoted some managers from within, and it has also recruited externally as well.

“Our people are our most important asset, and we want to make sure that people want to work for NGM, and that our people are proud to work for NGM,” Richardson said. “So, we have invested a lot of time and effort in improving the culture and building a shared sense of purpose and ownership.”

The culture improvement efforts include helping our employees to understand and embrace our Barrick DNA which includes our mission and core values, involving employees in our In Reach program, conducting employee engagement activities, and developing our leaders. “In a relatively short period of time, the change in our culture is noticeable,” Richardson said. “Change has been driven by our ‘One Team, One Mission’ approach with our Barrick DNA as our foundation.”

“Even though NGM has four operating mining complexes spread across northern Nevada, we want to make sure that we are working as one team,” he said. “We are all part of that team, and we can share resources and experiences to solve problems and learn from each other. We still have some work to do, but we have a lot of positive momentum.

“We have a really good team,” Richardson said. “We also have a lot of ongoing programs to improve safety and leadership. For example, we currently operate three different Training Mines, where we teach new employees about open-pit mining, underground mining, and processing.” He is excited to see these programs grow.

“With all of these projects and employee activities, we are looking forward to what the future will bring,” said Richardson.