BY KEITH LACEY
A total of 30 new jobs will be created as Inco Ltd. has committed to reopening a mine that closed down due to poor economic conditions a dozen years ago.
The nickel giant is embarking on what it expects to be the largest period of growth at its Sudbury operations in over 30 years, said Michael Winship, vice-president of Mines and Mills for Sudbury operations.
The company's growth strategy is focused on developing new sources of ore to improve future reserves in Sudbury, while also investing in productivity improvements across Sudbury operations to ensure the mines and processing operations can remain profitable in all future price cycles, said Winship.
Inco announced Tuesday it will proceed with a $30-million project to re-open the Garson Ramp, located adjacent to the existing Garson Mine. The Garson Ramp operated from 1988-1994.
The Garson Ramp will operate as a separate mine and create 30 new production and maintenance jobs when at full production by late next spring, said Winship.
Winship was joined at Garson Mine by Inco's top brass, Sudbury MPP and Minister of Northern Mines and Development Rick Bartolucci, and John Fera, president of Local 6500 of the United Steelworkers, to announce re-opening Garson Ramp and other development projects coming on the horizon.
Phase One of the project is currently in development, with first production expected early in 2007 and full production expected by the second quarter, said Winship.
The project involves three ore bodies that will produce nickel, copper and precious metals. The Garson Ramp is expected to produce 500 tons of ore per day and contribute almost 20 percent of Inco's precious metals in Sudbury, said Winship.
"Our initial interest in this ore body many years ago was nickel, but we've since discovered very high precious group metals," said Winship.
Spending $30-million to re-open an old mine site is a significant investment, but more importantly the beginning of what Inco hopes will be many similar announcements about new ore bodies, said Winship.
The first phase of the Garson Ramp has guaranteed production for three years, but Inco expects a much longer lifespan for the mine, said Winship.
"We know there are other attached ore bodies that exist and early diamond drilling has shown good success," he said. "We expect further phases with this project."
The incredible demand for nickel around the world and continued strong metal prices are making this project and many others feasible, said Winship.
"Metal prices are obviously the key driver in trying to find new ore bodies and developing projects that are now economically feasible," he said.
Inco will be making another announcement over another major ore body within two to three weeks, but Winship was not prepared to give further details Tuesday.
Winship, who has worked in mining engineering for 25 years, said the world boom in mining and metals makes this industry very exciting right now, noting there's no end in sight to world demand or high metals prices.
"It's a very good time to be a miner, whether in production or maintenance or helping build and develop new mines," he said. "It's a very exciting time to be doing business here in Sudbury."
Inco spokesperson Cory McPhee said while many remain anxious over who will end up owning Inco, the company continues to operate with the philosophy a bright future lies ahead for Sudbury operations no matter who ends up in control.
Mark Cutifani, Inco's president of North American and European operations, said after more than 100 years of mining activity, the Sudbury Basin continues to offer a wealth of opportunity.
"We at Inco are creating a future that positions us to fully realize those opportunities to the benefit of our company, our employees and the Sudbury community," he said.
Inco is spending $19 million (Canadian) in 2006 on exploration activities and almost $15 million on drilling to support strategic studies in Sudbury region, said McPhee.
"This is more than double the levels spent in Sudbury in 2005 and five times that spent in 2002, he said.
Other new capital projects in various stages of approvals and feasibility studies in Greater Sudbury include:
* Coleman 170 orebody expansion: A feasibility study is underway. This ore body is a 1.6 million ton narrow vain, with high copper and precious metal deposits located below and to the east of the current Coleman 153 ore body. If approved, production is expected to commence in 2010 at a rate of 500 tons per day with an expected project life of 10 years.
* Creighton Deepening Project: Two projects are underway to allow deeper mining at Creigton Mine. The first is an $8-million, four-year diamond drill exploration program that will allow for ore tonnage to be defined down to the 10,000-foot level. The second is a $48-million expansion project that will establish production ore at the 7,810-foot level and bring 1.8 million tons or high-grade ore into production from 2006-2011.
* Totten Mine: A feasibility study is underway at Totten, located out in Worthington. Shaft sinking and preliminary development was conducted at the site from 1964-1972. If approved, production is expected to begin in 2010 at a rate of 2,200 tons of ore per day. The mine has a projected lifespan of 12 years and is expected to employ 140 full-time workers.
* Kelly Lake Mine: A scoping study based on the current tonnage estimate of 12 million tons will be completed this year. The Kelly Lake project is being looked at as part of an integrated North and South Mine complex. A drilling program on four ore bodies is being conducted and will be completed in the fall. Current production targets are to begin by 2014.