KAMLOOPS — New Afton is coming off a record year in 2017 with production of six million tonnes. The goal is to match that this year, but 2018 is also a year of exploration in other ways — to analyze options for its C-zone moving forward.
"The deposit, the ore as it is, descends down at depth and continues on and a little to the west of where we're mining, so it's a very similar gold-copper type deposit to what we started mining," said New Afton manager of environment, social responsibility and tailings Scott Davidson. "It's material we're familiar with."
The company has put off exploring in the C-zone, a $400 million venture, until it's able to dig deeper into optimizing what lies beneath the surface. New Afton noted there is 26 million tonnes of gold-copper in the zone.
"The project is economic at spot prices, but we've identified some options in the area of tailings management, underground development, and some different ways of laying out the footprint and extracting the ore that we feel really needs to be looked at, as they could help to substantially lower costs and increase the value of the project," said Davidson.
New Afton, in producing a record amount of material, said its expenditures this year exceeded targets and the company wants to reduce its debt in 2018.
But New Afton affirmed that exploration of the C-zone is simply being delayed and still going ahead, and that will extend the life of mine for another five years until 2027.
"With our current company committment to maximize cash flow, we've elected to defer C-zone for 2018 only," said New Afton general manager John Ritter. "We haven't halted all activity. We still intend to look at optimizing our current feasability studies through some improved technologies and alternative tailings and our current mine practices. That'll drive the solid economics that C-zone has."
Part of the analysis of C-zone exploration will be what tailings to use.
"We run a conventional tailings facility, which is a slurry-type facility," noted Davidson. "So with the differing technologies that are out there, we're taking a closer look at filtered tailings, or dry stack. But also we're looking at thickened and amended, so thickening the tailings and then looking at adding things like cement to them to give them more strength."
There is no timeline to make any decision to begin production on the C-zone. But New Afton said this project is a top priority.
"We see this as one of our largest priorities this year. For us, we have 450 people. Over 70% are actually hired from the Kamloops area, so to be able to extend the ability for them to go home every night, five more years of employment," said Davidson.
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