First gold pour likely this month at Relief Canyon Mine
PERSHING COUNTY, Nev. — The first gold production in almost 30 years could happen this month at Relief Canyon Mine, according to the Americas Gold and Silver Corporation.
Gold bars will be poured in the upgraded refinery, active mining is underway and ore is being stacked on new heap leach pads.
The company updated the public in a Dec. 19 statement with obvious pride in the progress made so far at Relief Canyon Mine.
Recent company photographs indicate the operation is moving ahead with ore blasting and ore transport on a new conveyance system.
“The Relief Canyon Mine has advanced to its final stage of construction with initial ore placement on the leach pads achieved earlier today and first gold pour expected the first half of January 2020,” the company states. “The development continues on budget at a rapid pace and the company expects to bring the mine into commercial production by late Q1/early Q2, 2020.”
Active mining started in early December 2019 after construction of heap leach pads that are “effectively complete,” including placement of an overliner, according to the statement.
A 3,200-foot-long overland conveyance system, along with “grasshopper” conveyors, is transferring ore from the mine pits to leach pads a mile below.
The crushing and conveyor system are capable of stacking up to 6 million tons of ore per year, and the pad can hold up to 21 million tons of ore.
“The Company has begun crushing and stacking ore on the leach pads with over 70,000 tons of ore stockpiled and is waiting on expected ordinary course permits before the start of leaching,” according to the statement.
Most of the new equipment needed to refine and pour gold bars has been installed in the processing plant where gold particles will be extracted from the “pregnant” cyanide solution.
“Wet testing of the plant is in its final stages and the Company plans to test the carbon stripping circuit, including electrowinning, over the next two weeks,” the press release states.
In Phase I of the two-phase mining project, the company is permitted to deepen the existing pit below the water table to an elevation 5,080 feet with partial backfilling to prevent a pit lake.
Phase II, if permitted, will allow deeper mining with a pit lake left behind after mining ends. Mine officials have said the pit lake will not be contaminated and will not be hazardous to wildlife.
Under Phase I, the “life of mine” is about three years; Phase II, if permitted, would extend the mine life to six years and exploratory drilling could extend it beyond that.
The company is expecting Relief Canyon to substantially boost its precious metal reserves and production.
“With the closing of the acquisition of Relief Canyon, Americas increased its precious metal reserves by approximately 250% year-over-year and over 90% on a per share basis,” according to the company. “The ramp up of gold production at the Relief Canyon project is expected to advance the Company toward its anticipated 500% increase in precious metals production by 2021.”
Exploratory drilling to expand potential gold resources will continue around the three existing pits and beyond with $1.9 million in the budget for this project according to the statement.
“Exploration drilling will commence in the south and southwest areas of the pit with the goal of increasing resources by the end of 2020,” the company states. “The Relief Canyon deposit is geologically open on three sides and the Company controls a land package of approximately 11,700 hectares (about 30,000 acres) in and around the mine site of which only about 20 percent has been explored to date.
“Additional exploration plans include field work on the larger land package to identify future satellite drill targets.”
According to Mining.com, the Pegasus Corporation produced about 100,000 ounces of gold in four years at Relief Canyon. Firstgold Corporation took over in 1995, drilled 182 drill holes and upgraded the processing plant.
But, in 2009, the mine was mothballed after security concerns by the U.S. government caused the loss of foreign (Chinese) investment and bankruptcy.
Pershing Gold Corp. bought the mine in 2011 then sold it last year to Americas Gold & Silver.
After long delays, the Canada-based company was permitted to operate the mine but all Relief Canyon staff, contractors, vendors, workers and visitors must be cleared by the Department of Defense according to Americas Gold & Silver officials.
The tight security is due to the mine’s proximity to the Navy’s Fallon Range Training Complex in Churchill County. If the Navy has its way, the FRTC will expand north into Pershing County and increase local security concerns.
Despite the delay in acquisition and the first gold pour expected last year, Americas Gold & Silver CEO/President Darren Blasutti was pleased with the progress at Relief Canyon Mine.
“I’m extremely proud of our technical team, the Relief Canyon employees and contractors who were able to get ore placed on the newly constructed leach pads, only seven months since the start of construction,” he said in the statement. “Construction commenced in mid-May after closing the Pershing transaction and the Sandstorm financings in April and our team has worked diligently since then to achieve the company’s objectives.
“With the commencement of ore stacking, the Company is anticipating first gold production in the first half of January 2020, and commercial production by late Q1/early Q2 2020.”
Mine officials have predicted that Relief Canyon could produce 91,000 ounces of gold per year at cash costs of about $769 per ounce and all-in sustaining costs of $801 per ounce of gold.
In 2016, Pershing Gold Corporation Vice President of Exploration and Development Larry Hillesland estimated it will take about 25,000 tons of the average grade ore at Relief Canyon to produce one 1,000 ounce gold dore bar.
He also estimated that a man’s 18 carat gold ring would require approximately 12 tons of the average grade ore at Relief Canyon Mine. Last week, the average price of gold increased to more than $1,500 per ounce.
On April 1, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak formally issued a “Stay at Home” directive for Nevadans and extended closures of nonessential businesses, gambling and school closures to April 30.