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New mine in an old pit: Barrick begins mining at Arturo

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CARLIN – An old mine site has been reborn.

Barrick Gold Corp. began mining in its Arturo Mine this year. The new operation is located in the former Dee Pit, which is about 45 miles northwest of Elko. Barrick owns 60 percent of the project and Goldcorp owns the other 40 percent.

The Bureau of Land Management issued the mine’s record of decision May 9, 2014 and construction on the project began the end of 2014.

The mine will be mined in three phases, but it is starting in Phase 2 first, said Jerry Johnson, open pit technical services superintendent. Phase 2 is predominantly refractory ore and it will be sent to Goldstrike’s roaster and autoclave.

“It is about 90 percent refractory and about 10 percent oxide mill,” Johnson said. “It’s a smaller pit. It’s about 107 million total tons. It will be about 800 feet deep when we are done with it and about a half a mile in diameter, so significantly smaller than the Goldstrike Pit.”

He said the phases were named before all the drilling was completed, which is why Phase 2 will be mined before Phase 1.

Mining with the 4100 shovel started on March 26.

“The active shovel bench is just a wee bit of a highwall,” Johnson said.

Phases 1 and 3 are lower grade and 70 to 80 percent oxide heap leach or oxide mill, Johnson said. He didn’t expect mining to begin in Phase 1 or 3 until 2019.

“We’re building this project in a staged fashion, going after the higher grade, best economic pit first,” he said. “It gets us into Arturo without spending the large capital required to build the heap leach facility which these two phases need. … It’s out of order, but that comes from not having mines completely drilled out before you start planning them… further drilling upgraded Phase 2.”

“When we started permitting Arturo five or six years ago, obviously the environment was a little bit different, the economic environment was a little bit different,” said Goldstrike General Manager Andy Cole. “So once we finally got it permitted gold was back down to twelve- or thirteen-hundred dollars. … We got a bit of work to do. We’ll go in and get the mine established with the higher grade portion and then continue to optimize the oxide heap leach portion of Arturo.”

The Dee Pit was in closure and reclamation, but the Storm Underground, at the bottom of the pit, was mined from 2008 through last year, Cole said.

Phase 2 of Arturo will be mined through 2017, Johnson said. Then the workforce will be “completely back on the Goldstrike side.” Phase 1 and 3 should last about five years, he said.

Cole said the mining of Arturo will be integrated into the mining of Goldstrike. Essentially the same workforce and fleet from Goldstrike will be used at Arturo, said Bob Cleveland, open pit mine superintendent.

The refractory, oxide mill ore from Phase 2 is an average grade of 0.167 ounce per ton, Johnson said.

The site won’t have any additional complications for Phase 2, but when mining begins in Phase 1, miners will have to deal with the underground workings at the bottom of the phase, Johnson said. The plan also calls for miners to avoid some of the reclaimed areas that were old tailings facilities.

“The big thing from a training standpoint for our folks is Goldstrike is predominantly private land and Arturo is almost all (Bureau of Land Management) land,” Johnson said. “So it is just a heightened awareness of disturbance staking and following all the procedures and permissions to break new ground.”

The project will disturb about 2,774 acres of public land during the estimated 10 years of mining and ore processing, followed by three years of site closure and reclamation, according to the BLM.

Arturo is using a 4100 P&H shovel and 300-ton trucks. A second 4100 shovel was scheduled to be in Phase 2 by May. Mining in Phase 2 is moving mostly alluvium or waste rock. Cleveland said the main ore body won’t be reached until 2016, but the “peak” of the ore will be in 2017.

Mine Operations and Safety Issues

The haul from the pit to the waste rock storage facility is about 29 minutes, Cleveland said. Once the ore body is reached, the trip on the haul road will be closer to 60 minutes, Johnson said.

While hauling material, the trucks have to cross Dunphy Road, which is a county road, Johnson said. Before the trucks can cross, the driver has to put a Barrick ID card into a booster to activate the gate that separates the county road from the one used by the miners.

“The gates have been in a week or so,” Johnson said in April. “We have a siren that goes off so traffic has time to clear, then the gate goes up.”

While waste rock is being moved, the gate is normally used for shift change or when preventative maintenance is needed on a truck.

“When we get into the ore, the gate crossing will have heavier use,” Johnson said.

Another safety feature at the site is a secondary road running alongside the haul road, which is used by light vehicles.

The lights on site also have special conditions, Johnson said. To maintain dark skies on public land, the lighting has to be pointed down and must be hooded. This is a new requirement in permits for public lands.

“It’s so it doesn’t contribute to light pollution,” Johnson said.

Employees aren’t just digging ore at the site. They have to dig out soft spots in the haul roads and other areas to ensure equipment doesn’t get stuck. These areas contain a soft volcanic material that is called the Carlin formation, Johnson said.

“We have to dig them out and fill them in with stronger rock,” Johnson said. “If you don’t the trucks and shovels get stuck or it causes tire damage.”

While the Carlin formation material makes it difficult to mine, the employees store the material so it can be used later. Johnson said it is good for lining areas such as leach pads.

“In Nevada, one of the hardest things to find on site is suitable lining material,” Johnson said. “That is one of the things we want to identify early on, is where it is.”

The Carlin material also is used for reclamation areas because it is a natural barrier to seeds from invasive species.

“It’s preferential for covering waste dumps because it has good water retention and saturates like a sponge,” Johnson said. “It’s great for (reclamation) and great for lining. It’s just a pain for mining and notoriously a geotechnical problem in high walls and is completely devoid of gold.”


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