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Barrick Gold Corporation says that plans to extend the life of the Hemlo gold mine by transitioning it to a modernized Tier Two asset with a purely underground operation are well underway as open pit mining at the mine starts winding down.

The Hemlo open pit has been mined since 1989 and has produced over 2.8 million ounces of gold.

It was originally used to produce blasted rock for the backfilling of the mine’s underground stopes but in 2002 a CAT 777 truck fleet and key personnel were seconded from Barrick’s Nevada mines to establish the pit as a separate division.

In 2013, the David Bell mine closed, leaving the open pit and the Williams underground mine as the chief sources of ore for the mill feed. Over the next six years, the open pit ramped up and became the primary source of ore for Hemlo.

With mining at the open pit scheduled to wind down at the end of this month with less than 200,000 tonnes of ore remaining, a transition plan has been put in place to transfer most of the 70 plus open pit employees to the current underground contractor, Barminco.

The open pit crew has already worked with the contractor in digging a new portal from within the open pit, that will open up new mining fronts in the underground mine creating more flexibility and allowing the underground to ramp up throughput.

Catherine Raw, COO for North America, said that by repositioning and expanding Hemlo as an underground operation, it would continue delivering benefits to the community, employees, and other stakeholders for years to come.

Barrick Hemlo’s General Manager Adam Foulstone thanked the open pit employees for their years of dedication and hard work. “It’s been a great run and I am honored to have worked with such a great team.

“The last years of the mine were very challenging but we completed the work with zero lost time injuries, a testament to the commitment and professionalism of our people,” he said.

The mine held a dedication ceremony on October 5th to unveil the new portal sign honoring long-serving employee, Jim Harasym. Jim is the open pit manager at the Hemlo mine and was instrumental in the success of the project.