North American Palladium (NAP) announced on October 21 that it had begun hoisting material through the new shaft at its Lac des Iles palladium mine in northern Ontario. The production, service and auxiliary hoists were fully operational, and the skipping system had been successfully tested with full loads of material. 

Complete commissioning of the shaft ore-handling system, including the crusher and loading pocket, was on target for completion later in October. Production was then expected to transition from ramp haulage to predominantly shaft haulage, effectively marking the completion of the mine’s Phase I expansion. NAP is maintaining its target of increasing production from the mine’s underground Offset Zone to more than 3,000 metric tons (mt) per day during the fourth quarter, with plans to further increase the daily mining rate in 2014.

“The first skip of our new production shaft marks a very significant milestone for North American Palladium, positioning the company for improved operating margins and a return to profitability in 2014,” NAP president and CEO Phil du Toit said.

The production shaft is approximately 825-m deep and has a maximum hoisting capacity of 8,000 mt/d, which will eliminate the production bottleneck currently imposed by the long ramp haulage system. The shaft is 6 m in diameter and concrete-lined, with a conventional back leg headframe.

NAP also announced that it is deferring Phase II of the shaft expansion at depth. Preliminary indications from management’s ongoing review of its development strategy suggest that lower-cost mining opportunities may be available, allowing the company to defer Phase II capital spending, while still enabling the Lac des Iles operation to achieve production growth to as much as 250,000 oz/y by 2015.