Gold is poured for the first time at Eagle Gold mine on Sept. 18. (Courtesy Victoria Gold Corp)

Eagle mine pours its first gold

Victoria Gold president and CEO says gold production to hit full capacity in 2021

The Eagle Gold mine has signalled to Yukoners and the world that production is coming down the chute from here on out.

“To say it’s been a journey would be an understatement,” said John McConnell, president and CEO of Victoria Gold Corp., noting that it’s taken over a decade to reach this point.

On Sept. 17, the mine — now the largest in the territory — poured gold for the first time.

Operations started on July 1.

Asked how much gold will be produced during its first quarter, McConnell declined to provide a number, instead saying that roughly 150,000 ounces of gold is expected in 2020; the following year, 200,000 ounces is projected.

This latter figure is what Victoria Gold wants to pull from the mine on an annual basis, McConnell said.

He said the project is within its budget and four weeks ahead of schedule. The budget for the mine is roughly $500 million.

A live broadcast was set up in Denver, where a forum is taking place, said Samson Hartland, executive director of the Yukon Chamber of Mines.

Eagle Gold mine’s first brick of gold poured on Sept. 18, 2019. (Courtesy Victoria Gold Corp)

“Who else will be watching from New York and Japan or Switzerland, right?” he said. “And that’s a pretty freakin’ big deal. For the world’s eyes to be on Yukon and for the Yukon to be on the tips of the tongues of people down in Denver, Colorado or here in Whitehorse I think it’s all appropriate and I think it’s all in due course, given the investment this company has made over these last however many years building up this project to this stage.”

Hartland said the chamber doesn’t “crystal ball things,” but, given the company’s track record in the Yukon so far, positive things are likely to follow.

“We’re excited that it’s at this stage. We’re excited that Victoria Gold is going to be the Yukon’s biggest gold mine ever and given that it’s coming at a time when we don’t have any operating quartz mines in Yukon is a feat within itself,” he said.

The first pour is one thing. The mine’s first year will be a defining moment, said McConnell, during which production will be ratcheted up.

“We got a lot of tough work ahead of us to make sure we get the mine up and running properly. When you first start, you know, you find small design problems. You have to rebuild chutes, you know, conveyors don’t work properly so you have to adjust them. You slowly increase the production. We’re stacking at about 20,000 tonnes per day right now, but the design is to get that over 30,000 tonnes per day.”

He said this target will be hit in the next four to six weeks.

The current transmission line, which is over 65 years old, has been tagged for replacement. Earlier this month, Yukon and federal governments and the territory’s electric utility announced roughly $40 million towards replacing 31 kilometres of the Stewart-Keno transmission line (between Mayo and McQuesten.)

McConnell said the current line is supplying the mine with sufficient power.

“It still does its job,” he said. “We’ve had zero issues.”

The mine employs roughly 300 people; 50 per cent of the workforce is comprised of Yukoners, he said. First Nations people — not only from the Yukon but the Northwest Territories, Alberta and British Columbia — make up roughly 35 per cent. The number of women at the mine sits at about 25 per cent.

He said 10 years ago, the number of women working at mines hovered around five per cent, with most working in camp catering.

Now, McConnell said, “They are everything from mining engineers, geologists, journeymen electricians, mechanics, you now, people working in the kitchen, operators. Everybody wants to do the right thing and hire as many First Nations (people as possible), but I wouldn’t say we’ve had any special effort to hire women. It’s just the changing dynamic of our society.

“We work at it. Anybody that’s trying to be hired that’s not a Yukoner has to have my approval.”

Contact Julien Gignac at julien.gignac@yukon-news.com

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