Below is a summary of developments from operating mines in the NWT and Nunavut.
Mine: Gahcho Kue
Owner: De Beers Canada (51 per cent) and Mountain Province Diamonds (49 per cent)
Location: 280 km northeast of Yellowknife
Update: Quarter three 2021 saw 1.56 million carats extracted at Gahcho Kue, a 13 per cent decline from the third quarter in 2020 and an 11 per cent reduction from the 1.76 million carats recovered in quarter two 2021.
However, with 4.7 million carats in hand year to date, Gahcho Kue remains on pace to hit its target of 6.3 million to 6.5 million carats for the full year. In 2020, a total of 6.5 million carats were mined.
The average grade of diamonds recovered in quarter three 2021 was 1.88 carats per tonne, down 14 per cent from 2.19 carats per tonne a year earlier.
Mountain Province Diamonds’ share of diamond sales in the third quarter of 2021 was one million carats for $93.9 million. De Beers, as a private company, is not obligated to report its sales figures.
Owner: Rio Tinto
Location: 300 km northeast of Yellowknife
Update: On Nov. 18, Rio Tinto officially acquired the 40 per cent share previously held by Dominion Diamond Mines, making Diavik the sole owner of the diamond mine.
Rio Tinto’s share of third quarter 2021 diamonds at Diavik amounted to 834,000 carats, which was down 17 per cent from the third quarter a year earlier and a two per cent decrease from quarter two of 2021.
Over the first nine months of 2021, Rio Tinto yielded 2.69 million carats, which was five per cent off from the first nine months of 2021.
Rio Tinto attributed the year over year decrease in the third quarter to lower grades of diamonds and a smaller volume of processed ore.
Diavik recovered 6.2 million carats in 2020 compared to 6.7 million carats in 2019, according to the NWT Geological Survey.
Diavik is scheduled to close in 2025.
Owner: Arctic Canadian Diamond Company
Location: 310 km northeast of Yellowknife
Update: The past 18 months have been more tumultuous at Ekati than either of the other NWT diamond mines. Ekati was placed on care and maintenance status for most of 2020 due to Covid-19. Dominion Diamond Mines, the former owner of Ekati, subsequently sought creditor protection. A sale of the company’s assets to Arctic Canadian Diamond Company followed in the first several weeks of 2021. That deal entailed an $85 million commitment of working capital and honouring $70 million in outstanding debt.
Mining resumed in January.
Over the past few months, Arctic Canadian Diamond Company has been pushing for regulatory permission to drain Point Lake – 73.5 acres – for an open-pit project that the company argues is essential to keep Ekati viable. The Mackenzie Valley Review Board stated in October that an environmental assessment for the project will not be required. However, a public hearing is scheduled for Nov. 22-26 and a final decision is expected in March 2022.
Owner: Avalon Advanced Materials
Resource: Rare earths
Location: 100 km southeast of Yellowknife
Update: Cheetah Resources’ decision to purchase the rights to near-surface resources in Nechalacho’s T-zone and Tardiff zone at Thor Lake for $5 million in 2019 paid off in 600,000 tonnes of ore being shipped for processing after several months of mining this year. The Australian company, the Canadian subsidiary to Vital Metals, announced growing demand for its product in October as Norwegian firm REEtec AS agreed to purchase 50 per cent more rare earths than in its original deal. As well, a memorandum of understanding was signed with Ucore Rare Metals for a supply of mixed rare earth carbonate beginning in the first half of 2024.
Det’on Cho Nahanni Construction, which is owned by the Yellowknives Dene, benefitted from this year’s mining through an $8-million agreement to provide mining and equipment services at the site.
The Nechalacho Mine is a high-grade, rare earths project with a world-class resource of 94.7 million tonnes at 1.46 per centTREO, in the measured, indicated and inferred categories.
Project: Mary River
Owner: Baffinland Iron Mines
Location: 160 km south of Pond Inlet
Status: Baffinland is awaiting a decision from Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal on the fate of its proposed phase two expansion project, which the company insists is essential to keeping the mine economically viable. The Nunavut Impact Review Board, after concluding public hearings in Iqaluit on Nov. 6, was to make a recommendation to Vandal.
Baffinland is seeking to increase production at Mary River to 12 million tonnes of iron ore per year from the existing limit of six million tonnes annually. That would entail a 110-km railway and increased shipping, which has elicited repeated concerns from community members and organizations about potential impacts on terrestrial animals and marine life. Many Inuit still hunt some of those animals for sustenance.
Baffinland shipped 5.45 million tonnes of iron ore from Mary River in 2020, a decrease from 5.93 million tonnes in 2019.
Owner: Agnico Eagle Mines
Location: 25 km north of Rankin Inlet
Status: Meliadine achieved a record quarter by producing 97,024 ounces of gold during July, August and September of 2021.
Agnico Eagle is striving to extract 370,000 ounces of gold from the project in 2021.
Meliadine produced 318,889 ounces of gold and 27,016 ounces of silver in 2020.
It cost the company $786 to mine each ounce of gold in 2020. Agnico Eagle is aiming to reduce that cost per ounce to $736 this year.
The site has gold reserves of four million ounces with a mine life projected to 2032.
In addition, Nunavummiut workers were fully returned to work as of October after having been sent home in March 2020 due to the safety risks posed by the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Owner: Agnico Eagle Mines
Location: 160 km northwest of Baker Lake
Status: Amaruq churned out 89,076 ounces of gold during the third quarter of 2021.
Agnico Eagle has a target of 370,000 ounces of gold at Amaruq this year.
Amaruq yielded 209,413 ounces of gold and 62,679 ounces of silver in 2020.
The company spent $1,436 per ounce of gold in 2020. The goal in 2021 is to lower those expenditures to $917 per ounce.
The mine has gold reserves of 2.9 million ounces and is expected to remain in production until 2026.
“Nunavut has the potential to be a strategic operating platform for the company with the ability to generate strong gold production and cash flows over several decades,” Agnico Eagle stated of its existing operations and the prospect of extending the mine life at all of its sites via exploration.
Project: Hope Bay
Owner: Agnico Eagle Mines
Location: 125 km southwest of Cambridge Bay
Status: Agnico Eagle chose to ramp down production at Hope Bay in October due to a Covid-19 outbreak at the site and an increasing number of cases of the virus in Alberta, which is the primary location for transporting crews to the mine.
Because Agnico Eagle acquired Hope Bay and its Doris North gold mine from TMAC Resources in February, the project isn’t yet included in Agnico Eagle’s “cost or capital expenditure guidance for 2021, nor included in its year-end 2020 mineral reserve and mineral resource estimates,” according to the company.
However, Agnico Eagle budgeted $16.2 million for 69,600 metres of drilling in the area in 2021. Sitting on a 80-km by 20-km Archean greenstone belt, Hope Bay – where 17,957 ounces of gold was extracted in the third quarter of 2021 – is considered to have vast exploration potential.