Relief Canyon Mine construction underway; gold production expected soon
PERSHING COUNTY, Nev. — New leach pad construction is underway, a new crusher is in the works, mining will start in the third quarter and gold bars are anticipated to be poured by the end of the year at Relief Canyon Mine, according to new General Manager Michael Iannachionne of Americas Silver Corporation.
Pershing Gold Corporation recently handed over control of the mine to Americas Silver. No gold has been produced at the Relief Canyon Mine for almost 30 years according to MINING.com.
“In 1986, Pegasus Gold Corp. bought a 4-year option on the mining property. Pegasus’ management term spanned November 1986 until September 1990, reportedly producing more than 100,000 ounces of gold during that time.”
NEW CONSTRUCTION, JOBS
Ames Construction is building new heap leach cells six, seven, eight and nine. “Vintage” heap leach pads will be reclaimed with layers of topsoil and growth media.
“We’re adding a whole new leach pad,” Iannacchione said. “Ames mobilized at the end of May and started construction the first of June. It should be completed by the end of October.”
Ledcor Group is the contractor that will be hiring workers for the mining operation.
“All the mining here is contract mining and we should start sometime in August or September,” Iannacchione said, adding that the mine contractor will need operators for loaders, trucks, drills and all the other “regular surface mining equipment.”
“They’ve been looking to hire operators. I think they’ll be putting ads out in the paper and have job fairs,” he said. “People can look on Ledcor’s website (for more information). Ames already has people but they may from time to time look for people.”
In addition, Americas Silver Corporation will be hiring in a few months.
“We’re at 18 people now and our total employment will be about 50,” Iannacchione said. “We’ll start to hire probably in the fall- crushing operators, maintenance people for crushers and more process operators. They’re building the crusher and it will hopefully start coming in about a month and we’ll start to assemble it.”
NEW SYSTEMS AND UPGRADES
A new conveyance system will carry gold ore about a mile from the pits to the new leach pad. The conveyor belts will be less expensive than hauling it by truck down the hill, he explained.
“It’s an overland conveyor and there will be grasshopper conveyors,” Iannacchione said. “The conveyors on the pad are on wheels so you can move them around as needed.”
A cyanide solution will leach gold from crushed ore. Gold and silver will be extracted from the “pregnant” solution for smelting into bars of gold and silver for further refinement elsewhere.
“The solution will be run through tanks with carbon and the gold will load on to the carbon. Then, the solution will go in a circle and keep going back up to the leach pad. We take the gold off the carbon and ultimately refine it for a bar of gold and silver.”
The existing processing plant and refinery are being upgraded.
New mercury emissions abatement equipment is also required before gold production can begin, Iannacchione said: “We are targeting our first gold pour by the end of the year.”
KEEPING ‘THE AIR AND WATER CLEAN’
Mining will start on the edge of the existing pits. The company is permitted to deepen the pits and will eventually reach the aquifer. That will require pit dewatering and, when mining ends, there will be “small” pit lake but the water will not be hazardous to wildlife, Iannacchione said.
“We’ll hit water within a few years with a low dewatering rate,” he explained. “It’s not a major de-watering effort.”
Groundwater not put to use elsewhere in the operation will be injected back into the aquifer.
“We’ll put it into re-infiltration basins where water goes back into the ground,” Iannacchione said.
Exploratory drilling will continue and could extend the mine life beyond the current six years.
“Hopefully, we’ll encounter more ore. We have areas that we do need to drill,” Iannacchione said. “What we know of right now, we have about six years of mining and processing of gold.”
The total life of the mine is dependent on permitting, Iannacchione said.
“We’re permitted for the first phase. The second phase of the permitting is related to mining below the water table and leaving a pit lake. We can operate for two to three years without the Phase II permitting but, to get the full six years, we need that second phase of permitting. We’ve submitted all the studies and the BLM is early in the process,” Iannacchione explained. “At the end of the day, our job is to keep the air and water clean and our plan is to do that.”
All mine officials, contractors and visitors must now be cleared by the Department of Defense.
“We’re on the edge of the Fallon Air Station,” Iannacchione explained. “We’re in proximity to their testing ground and we have to get a clearance for all of our vendors and visitors from the Department of Defense. If we need to improve our radio system with another antenna or a cell tower, all of that has to go through the DOD.”
It’s not the first time national security concerns have impacted the Relief Canyon Mine according to MINING.com. After purchasing the mine in 1995, drilling 182 exploratory holes and upgrading the processing plant, Firstgold Corporation lost control of the mine due to foreign investment.
“The then high-profile run of Firstgold Corp., financially backed in part by Chinese investors, was about to take a major downturn. In 2009, a federal agency (the Committee on Foreign Investment) ruled the mine was too close to facilities associated with Fallon’s Naval Air Station to justify a foreign presence and the company was subsequently forced into bankruptcy court.”
Go to americassilvercorp.com to read more about Pershing Couty’s Relief Canyon Mine.
This article first published in the 2019 edition of Winnemucca Publishing’s Mining magazine.
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