Teck adds open pit to Duck Pond mine

A copper and zinc mine in central Newfoundland has changed the way it operates.
Teck Resources has been working on its new open pit mine at Duck Pond for about a month. (CBC)

A copper and zinc mine in central Newfoundland has changed the way it operates.

After eight years of mining, the underground reserves at Teck Resources' Duck Pond mine, near Millertown, are running out.

In an effort to get the most out of its what's left, the company has added an open pit mine to its operations.

Larry Bartlett, Teck Resources' general manager, said it will supplement the company's dwindling underground reserves.

"We've been able to produce strictly from underground until now, and now the open pit ore and the underground ore will both be going together at the same time, so one will supplement the other to keep our production at peak levels," he said.

The pit has been in full production for about a month. It's now 12 metres deep, but will be about 45 metres deep when it's finished.

Bartlett said crews are looking for what they call the "lower Duck" copper and zinc that are buried far below.

"We've had a couple of really good returns on a couple of drill holes, but now the chore is to drill enough so we can definitely say, 'yes, this is a reserve,' " he said.

Creating jobs

The open-pit work has been contracted out to Adams Construction, a company based out of Bishop's Falls.

Manager Roy Adams said the contract has allowed him to turn 35 seasonal workers into full-time employees.

"It's a big deal for us because it gives us permanent employees, and work year round for at least two years," he said. "It's a big boost to the economy."

Adams said it's a relief for many of his workers.

"A lot of people [are] moving, going to Alberta, but not everybody wants to go. But they're afraid of the unemployment. So you've got people now that [are going to] have 24 months' work, minimal," he said. "That makes them a lot happier and more secure."

Teck Resources is also exploring another possible pocket of ore that's deep underground, which could keep the mine going until 2016.