Massive Canadian gold mine gets green light

Iamgold and Sumitomo’s Cote joint venture gold project in northern Ontario. Image from Iamgold.

Iamgold and 30% joint-venture partner Sumitomo Metal Mining have decided to move ahead with their Côté gold project in northern Ontario.

Construction at the $1.3 billion, open-pit project is slated to begin in the third quarter, with commercial production expected in the second half of 2023. Over 60% of detailed project engineering is already complete.

Iamgold estimates its 70% of the capex will be C$875-925 million.

Located 20 km southwest of Gogama, Côté is expected to produce 367,000 oz. gold annually over a mine life of 18 years, with the mill processing 36,000 tonnes of ore per day.

Iamgold recently received a key federal permitting approval under the Fisheries Act, with other permitting under way

“The Côté gold project is transformational to the future of Iamgold,” said Gordon Stothart, Iamgold president and CEO in a release.

“At a gold price of $1,700, Côté’s expected NPV (on a 100% basis) is over $2 billion, with a 22.4% IRR. The project is anticipated to generate over 1,000 jobs during construction, 450 jobs during operations, C$5 billion in wages and more than C$10 billion in GDP over its lifespan.”

Stothart added that the project will reduce Iamgold’s overall operating costs per ounce of gold, increase the company’s production capacity and add geographic diversity to its portfolio.

Iamgold plans to use autonomous trucks at the site, which would be new for mines in Canada (outside of the oilsands). Discussions with regulators are under way.

Côté contains proven and probable reserves totalling 7.3 million oz. gold, contained in 233 million tonnes grading 0.96 g/t gold. The life-of-mine average strip ratio is expected to be 2.7:1.

Iamgold updated some of the project metrics in June, using $1,350 per oz. gold and $1,700 per oz. gold, up from $1,250 per oz. used in a 2018 feasibility study for Côté.

At $1,350 per oz. gold, all-in sustaining costs (AISC) are estimated at $771 per oz., the after-tax net present value (NPV) is $1.1 billion, the internal rate of return (IRR) is 15.3%, and the payback period is 3.7 years. At $1,700 gold, the AISC is $835 per oz., the NPV grows to $2 billion, the IRR rises to 22.4% and the payback period falls to 2.6 years.

Iamgold recently received a key federal permitting approval under the Fisheries Act, with other permitting under way. Environmental Assessment and closure plans for the project have both been approved, and Impact and Benefits Agreements are in place with the Mattagami and Flying Post First Nations.

Côté is 92.5% held by the Iamgold-Sumitomo 70/30 JV, with 7.5% held by Treelawn Investment Corp.

(This article first appeared in the Canadian Mining Journal)