Agnico Eagle Finland
As a responsible gold producer, the company cares for its employees and protects the safety and well-being of the local community.
The Kittila mine is extracting one of the largest known gold deposits in Europe. Mining started in 2008 from two open pits, the “Roura” and “Suuri” pits. Open pit mining was completed in November 2012 and the mine is now entirely an underground operation. About 1.6 million tonnes of ore is extracted annually, yielding more than 6,000 kg of gold. At current production rates and known ore reserves, the mine is expected to produce gold until 2035 (as per December 31, 2015).
The gold mineralization in the Suurikuusikko deposit is so called “refractory”. This means that most of the gold is locked inside sulphide grains and only about four per cent exists as free gold. This makes processing of the gold especially challenging. The only economically efficient process currently known for extraction of refractory gold is cyanidation. It is widely used in the mining industry, and when carried out properly, it is the safest, most cost-efficient and environmentally friendly method available.
The excavated ore is transported from the mine to the crushing facilities at the mineral processing plant. After crushing, the ore is ground in two stages with a semi-autogenous mill and a ball mill. The finely ground sulphide minerals that contain gold are separated from the other minerals by flotation. After flotation, the gold-bearing sulphide mineral is oxidated at high pressure and temperatures (210 degrees) in a pressure vessel, a so called autoclave. After the autoclave, the goldrich slurry is dissolved with cyanide, adsorbed onto granules of activated carbon, stripped from the carbon by acid, and electroplated loosely onto stainless steel wool. The goldbearing sludge is washed from the steel wool, mixed with fluxes, and melted in a furnace, which separates the material
into doré metal and slag. Finally the doré metal is poured into bars with a gold content of 92–95 %.
Agnico Eagle’s sustainable development policy is based on four core values: safe production, protection of the environment and respect for the employees and communities. By applying these values, Agnico Eagle aims to promote social, economic, and sustainable development in the communities that are affected by the company’s operations. Accordingly, the mine operates in a responsible manner and looks after the local community and its people, alongside the environment.
A member of the community
Right from the start, the mine has actively participated in the life of the local community supporting it in many ways. The mine participated in the renovation of the Kittilä soccer pitch and ice hockey arena, and it also sponsors and assists several local societies, hobby groups, events, training projects and providers of sport activities. A vital and lively community is in the best interest of the mine, because it means the employees and their families are happy to live and remain in the area.
The mine is located about 20 km from Finland’s largest ski resort Levi in Kittilä. The mine and the ski resort benefit from each other’s activities and coexist in harmony. Together they are able to offer versatile job opportunities in Kittilä helping families to settle into their new place of residence. The Levi Ski Resort is an obvious benefit and attraction in the recruitment of mine personnel; the mine and its personnel use the Levi services year-round.
The mine contributes to the social and economic development in northern Finland in many ways. It is one of the largest employers in Finnish Lapland, employing directly about 440 people year-round. The company also provides jobs for about 300 contractor employees working in the mine and in exploration projects. It makes significant payments to local suppliers for goods and services and contributes to the development of the region though the creation and development of small businesses in surrounding communities,
as well as upgrading of the local infrastructure.
Looking to the future
Expansion of the mill was completed in 2014. Since the expansion, the mine and mill have shown the ability to operate in excess of 4,000 tonnes/day, and efforts are ongoing to assess the optimal throughput rate. Studies are also underway to optimize underground mining rates and fully integrate the upper and lower Rimpi zones and the newly discovered Sisar Zone in a new mine plan.
The Sisar Zone could potentially provide an additional source of underground ore to the mill with relatively little additional underground development, should further drilling outline an economic deposit.