Saskatoon

Sask. sets new gold production record for 4th straight year

Saskatchewan set another record for gold production in 2019 — the fourth consecutive year that has happened.

A single gold operation in northern Sask. produces all of the province's gold

The Seabee gold operation in northern Saskatchewan produced 112,137 ounces of gold last year. (Claude Resources website)

Gold production in Saskatchewan hit a record high last year, according to the province's Ministry of Energy and Resources.

In fact, the ministry said 2019 was the fourth straight year that a new record for gold production was set.

All of the gold produced in Saskatchewan comes from the Seabee Gold Operation, the province's only active gold mine.

It produced 112,137 ounces of gold last year, a 17 per cent increase over the previous year, the ministry said.

The Seabee gold operation is owned by SSR Mining and is located about 125 kilometres northeast of La Ronge.

Production takes place at the Santoy underground mine before the ore is processed at the nearby Seabee mill facility.

Operation running more efficiently

Paul Benson, the CEO of SSR Mining, said they have been able to increase the amount they can process in any one year "just through running the plant harder, smarter and improving plant performance.

"So we get more tonnes of rock into the front of the plant," he said.

He said they've also been able to increase the percentage of gold they collect from what is processed.

"When we started, it was already fairly high. I think it was around 96 per cent," he said.

"We've got it up now to around 98 per cent of the gold going in the front end of the plant we've been able to recover."

Benson said the grade of the ore has also increased since SSR Mining, formerly Silver Standard Resources, acquired Claude Resources and the Seabee operation in 2016.

He said the grade was about eight grams per tonne in the first year they took over operations and is now closer to nine grams per tonne.

"It doesn't sound like a lot, but you know, that's a more than 10 per cent increase," he said.

He said they've estimated they will produce between 110,000 and 120,000 ounces of gold in 2020.

"So if we get to the midpoint of that guidance, that will be yet another record for that mine," he said.

Exploration budget extending operation's life

In 2017, a technical report projected production at the Seabee operation to last until at least 2024 — but Benson said he believes the operation's life has been extended to around 2026 because they continue to identify new resources that are converted to reserves.

Benson said Claude Resources spent about $3 million Cdn for exploration over the two years before his company took over.

He said SSR Mining spent $6 million US in 2017, $9 million in each of 2018 and 2019 — and is expected to spend $12 million this year.

He said the Seabee operation employs approximately 350 workers, including contractors.

About the Author

Kelly Provost is a newsreader and reporter with CBC News in Saskatoon. Email him at kelly.provost@cbc.ca.

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