New Afton Mine
Commodities: Copper (Cu), gold (Au), silver (Ag)
Location: 10 km west of Kamloops, BC.
Geology and Type of Deposit: New Afton Mine is located in the Intermontane belt of the Canadian Cordillera. The ore is a copper-gold porphyry type deposit. Mineralization occurs mainly along the brecciated margins between Triassic age Nicola Group volcanic rocks and various intruded phases of the Iron Mountain Batholith. The main minerals are chalcopyrite and bornite, with minor chalcocite and native copper. Gold is associated with the copper sulphide minerals.
The Operation: New Afton Mine is located on the historic Afton Mine, an open pit mine that operated from 1977-1997. New Afton is the underground extension of the Afton Mine open pit. Development of underground workings and construction of a new mill and other infrastructure began in 2009. Production began in June 2012. New Afton Mine is owned and operated by New Gold Inc. It currently processes ~13,000 tonnes of ore each day. In 2016 the mine produced 98,000 ounces of gold and 87,000,000 pounds of copper. Based on current production rates, the proven and probable reserves allow mining to continue until 2024.
Mining Method: The New Afton deposit is mined using the block-caving method of underground mining. Ore is transported by a load haul dump (LHD) loader from the drawpoints on the extraction level to an ore pass that directs the ore to the haulage level down below. There the ore is loaded LHD into a haul truck that transports the ore to and underground gyratory crusher. From there the crushed ore is conveyed to surface.
Mineral Processing: A conveyor delivers crushed ore directly to a SAG mill and continues to a ball mill, exiting as a sand-water slurry. The slurry is piped to flotation cells which float the copper-gold concentrate. The concentrate is piped on to a thickener cell, and finally a pressure filter to lower the water content. The concentrate is stockpiled under cover before shipping. Tailings that settle out of the flotation cells are piped to the tailings storage facility. The water is returned to the mill and reused in the milling process.
Markets: New Gold concentrate is hauled by truck from the mine to Vancouver Wharves in North Vancouver. There it is loaded onto bulk carriers and shipped across the Pacific to smelters in China, Japan, India, and the Philippines.
Community and Employment: New Afton Mine currently employs 450 people. Nearly 80% live in and around the city of Kamloops; 6% are from local Tk’emlúps and Skeetchestn First Nations.
Environmental Considerations: New Afton mine occupies an historical mine site with reclaimed waste rock dumps and tailings pond. New workings went underground and a new, lined tailings storage facility was constructed within the existing mine site, keeping a small mine footprint.
The mine draws water from Kamloops Lake for operations. As a zero-discharge facility (i.e. no water used in mining is discharged to the environment, water on the mine is conserved, recycled and reused. Surface water is monitored and tested regularly at 28 locations and groundwater is monitored and tested at 17 locations, and air quality is monitored and tested at 10 locations around the site. Air quality is monitored at 10 locations around the mine and dust suppressant is used in areas of high traffic to ensure that mining does not impact the local air shed.
Plans are in place to ensure the reclamation and re-vegetation of the mine site when mining ceases. A partnership with Thompson Rivers University has been established to find the most efficient way to reclaim the natural grasslands that host the mine site.
New Gold has also supported the formation of the Warner Philip Conservation Area, a 260-hectare area located about 20 minutes south of Kamloops, as an unofficial biodiversity offset from mine site activities that result in disturbance of former grasslands. See also: https://www.kamloopsthisweek.com/tru-teams-up-with-new-afton-mine/ BCMEM's New Afton MINFILE profile.