Newmont Mining Corporation poured the first gold from its Long Canyon project in early November. | nnbw.com

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Newmont Mining Corporation poured the first gold from its Long Canyon project in early November.

When Newmont Mining Corporation poured the first gold from its Long Canyon project in early November, it marked the culmination of a five-year journey to bring the mine in the Pequop Mountains into production.

Newmont on Nov. 1 produced its first loaded carbon from the site and on Nov. 8 poured the first gold doré bars at its main Carlin facility. Miners started placing ore from Long Canyon on leach pads toward the end of May.

The long journey to booking that first gold began in April 2011, when Newmont acquired Long Canyon from Fronteer Gold for $2.3 billion. Construction on the mine located between Wells and Wendover began in earnest upon receiving a record of decision from the Bureau of Land Management in April of 2015.

Doug Livermore, regional projects director for Newmont North America, says Newmont originally planned on making its first gold pour in the first quarter of 2017, but miners were able to get enough ore placed on leach pads to book production months ahead of schedule.

“From a business standpoint, it’s very satisfying to put forward the challenging goal of developing a new mine and new business that demonstrates Newmont’s ability to continue to grow,” Livermore says. “It’s about having people willing and capable to deliver that result to the business safely — the market recognizes that value.”

Gordon Mountford, Long Canyon general manager, says that from groundbreaking to commercial production, the most serious safety incident at the site involved one workman requiring minor stitches to heal a cut. There were no serious accidents or lost-time incidents on the project.

Newmont spent a lot of time and effort on safety training, Mountford says — a policy that got even more complicated once large-scale construction work began.

Big D Construction of Salt Lake City was general contractor on the project, as well as many contractors that have historically supported Newmont’s development and construction efforts in northern Nevada, Livermore says.

A few of the main challenges associated with bringing Long Canyon into commercial production include advancing the mine through the tail end of the worst economic slowdown since the Great Depression, and heavy snow and inclement weather during the winter of 2015-16 that hampered construction efforts.

“We had a lot of concrete being poured and steel being erected in a lot of cold, snow and wind,” Mountford says. “It became very challenging, but we did meet schedule. It took a lot of work and a lot of effort by everyone here on the project team.”

Mountford says that 75 percent of the contractors on the site were from northern Nevada, with the remaining 25 percent coming from Salt Lake City.

Early earthwork also had to be halted in certain areas as crews came across nesting birds. Workers created buffer zones in those sensitive areas to provide relief until the birds left the area. Newmont also had to assemble a workforce of archaeologists and tribal monitors to observe all ground disturbances in the event of any significant culture discoveries. Workmen did unearth several cultural finds that had to be treated and mitigated.

“We had to incorporate delays in construction, and we went to different areas to keep the fleet working,” Mountford says. “There was a lot of day-to-day planning based on what we were finding in the field.”

Phase 1 of the Long Canyon project has a predicted eight-year mine life and is expected to produce between 100,000 to 150,000 ounces per year at a very competitive cost, Mountford adds.

Loaded carbon, an end-product of the leaching process, is taken to Newmont’s Carlin operations, where it goes through electrowinning to separate the gold from the carbon before being turned into doré bars that are sold for further refining.

Over the next five years, Livermore says, Newmont will advance phase 2 of the project, which may include expansion of open pit mining, development of underground mining operations, and potential on-site milling. Geologist will continue to map out optimal methods of gold extraction and production, he adds.

The mine currently employs 210, a number that is expected to increase in the next few quarters to 270. The majority of employees are new hires for Newmont, and 30 percent reside in Wells or Wendover. Both communities are expected to grow as Long Canyon grows.

“We put in a lot of energy and effort, and it’s very satisfying to see the outcome our team has been able to put forward,” Livermore says. “We are going to celebrate for very short period of time the success of delivering against our commitments, but we will be operating 24/7, and the team will continue to go on safely running that business. We look forward to growing Long Canyon in the future.”