North American Palladium announced in mid-January 2012 that it is discontinuing production at its Sleeping Giant gold mine, located 80 km north of Amos in the Abitibi region of Quebec.

However, the Sleeping Giant mill will continue to operate to process ore trucked approximately 85 km from the company’s new Vezza gold mine. The mill began processing a bulk sample of Vezza ore in January.

Of the shutdown at Sleeping Giant, North American Palladium President and CEO William J. Biggar said, “We have been unable to achieve our objective of returning to profitability by mining from three new levels at depth. While early on we had great encouragement with high-grade drill results that supported the shaft deepening investment, as we conducted infill drilling we encountered a lack of continuity in the narrow vein structure such that we were unable to devise an economic mine plan. Despite our best efforts to improve the profitability of the mine, we are disappointed with the outcome.”

North American Palladium expects to begin commercial production at Vezza at a mining rate of 750 mt/d at the beginning of the second quarter of 2012. For the nine-month period to December 31, 2012, the company forecasts the mine will produce about 30,000 oz of gold at a cash cost of approximately $1,150/oz, including trucking costs of approximately $80/oz.

Vezza production will come from a blend of long hole and Alimak mining methods. North American Palladium has entered into a contract with Promec Mining, a Val d’Or mining contractor, to provide the mining workforce. Beginning in 2013, the company expects to increase Vezza’s daily mining rate to 850 mt/d, yielding approximately 43,000 oz/y in gold production at cash costs of around $1,000/oz. Vezza is expected to have a mine life of nine years.