It was a beautiful, sunny morning to break ground at IAMGOLD’s new open pit gold mine about 20 km southwest of Gogama.
On Friday, local First Nation leaders, MPPs, and municipal leaders from Sudbury, Gogama and Timmins, joined Premier Doug Ford and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the company’s new Côté Gold site to show their support for a project that is expected to create hundreds of jobs and contribute billions to the economy.
“The opening of this mine is a prime example of how the Ontario government can help businesses grow and create jobs by cutting red tape and removing regulatory roadblocks, without cost to taxpayers,” Ford said.
“I want to thank IAMGOLD for making this significant investment in Northern Ontario, which will create good-paying jobs for the local community and support the long-term prosperity of both the region and Ontario as a whole.”
The Côté Gold project, which is a 70/30 joint venture between IAMGOLD and Sumitomo Metal Mining Co. Ltd., has been a long time in the making.
After acquiring the property from Trelawny Mining in 2013, the company put the project on hold on more than one occasion to wait until market conditions improved, the last time being in January 2019.
“It’s a lot of hard work. It’s nice to think that this has all happened over the last couple of months, but really it has been eight years in the making,” said IAMGOLD President and CEO Gordon Stothart.
“A lot of hard study work and a lot of great work by our exploration teams and our engineering teams in getting us to this point.
“A lot of hard work on the finance side, too. You can all imagine – a $1.8 billion Canadian project doesn’t come together lightly.
“There were a lot of economics involved in making that kind of thing happen.
“And certainly, there’s been a lot of work with teams on the ground in local communities, working with governments, and working with the ministries.”
IAMGOLD was given the green light to begin construction on the mine, which is expected to continue over the next three years, in July.
The mine should be in commercial production by 2023, though gold extraction is expected to begin next year.
During the peak of construction, the mine is expected to create 1,000 jobs, while the operation itself should create about 450.
Over the life of the mine, the project is expected to generate about $10 billion in GDP for the region, including $5 billion in wages.
According to the project’s feasibility study, Côté Gold has gold reserves of more than seven million ounces.
Stothart said that during the first six years, the operation will be producing around 470 ounces of gold on an annual basis.
The current potential life of the mine is 18 years, but ongoing exploration efforts could extend the timeline.
“The mine itself sits within a package that is maybe 25 square kilometres,” said Stothart. “Our exploration consumption is actually 540 square kilometres, so it’s very large.
“Last year, we announced that we had a new discovery about 1.2 kilometres to the northeast of the Côté Gold deposit, called Gosselin. We’ve been drilling on that the last couple of years. It’s our hope that at some point next year, we will be able to come out with a maiden resource on that.
“A potential target for us now is an additional three to five million ounces, so potentially another eight to 10 years of operation. We will see how that goes.
“Beyond that, the exploration team continues to work along the whole trend. My firm belief is that this will be a 30-year operation.”
Pre-construction on the site started this summer.
During the first six months or so of construction, the company will focus on earth work activities and earth moving contracts, preparations for the tailing storage facility, and preparations for the plant site and the mine pit areas.
“We are really looking to build a modern mine with autonomous trucks and autonomous drilling,” said Stothart. “The level of technology involved in that is going to be much more advanced than in a traditional mine.
“From taking something that is really purely raw from this beautiful territory to building an industrial plant that is well-operated and well-run, we will generate a lot of value and put a lot of money in the pockets of the people in this region and of the people in Ontario.
“I am really truly hoping that it also spurs some strong development for our First Nations partners.”
The Côté Gold project has received a lot of support, not only from municipal and provincial governments, but also from local First Nation communities.
IAMGOLD signed an impact benefit agreement with Mattagami and Flying Post First Nations in 2018 that will offer job opportunities and financial and economic benefits to those First Nations and their members.
“Today is a historical event, fortunately that we are able to have considering the COVID-19 virus that has plagued many parts of this world,” said Chief Chad Boissoneau, of Mattagami First Nation.
“Today we start the process of a prosperous journey for all stakeholders, local communities and their members, and many other communities that this project will support for the benefit of our families and future generations of the next twenty plus years.
“More importantly, I would like to thank the Creator for the sacrifice that our Mother Earth has given us by providing the minerals that will be extracted, and the vast amount of employment opportunities this project will create to build and finally process this sought after resource.”
To support the project, the Ministry of Energy, Northern Development and Mines, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and the Ministry of Environment, Conservation, and Parks worked together through the One-Window Multi-Ministry Team to help co-ordinate on the environmental assessment process, review the closure plan for the mine and move the permitting process forward.
“Mining is a key driver of our provincial economy and our government is proud to support Ontario’s world-class mining industry,” said Greg Rickford, the minister of Northern Development and Mines and Minister of Indigenous Affairs.
“The opening of Côté Gold mine will propel economic recovery forward in the region, once again signalling to the world that Northern Ontario is open for business, jobs and investment.”
Prime Minister Trudeau and Ford both reflected on the lessons learned throughout the Côté Gold project and how they could be applied to other projects, including the Ring of Fire, at the groundbreaking ceremony.
“What we’ve seen here in terms of the real, not just co-operation, but partnership between Indigenous communities and the mining company is an example of what we see in many places across the country, but what we need to see more of,” Trudeau said.
“What IAMGOLD has been able to do with working with Flying Post and with Mattagami really demonstrates that this is the way things need to be done. In partnership and respect, understanding that there is long-term work to be done together and opportunities for everyone to benefit.
“This is part of reconciliation and government has its role to play, but private sector and communities also have an important role to play as we move forward.”
By: Colleen Romaniuk, Sudbury Star, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government.