McEwen confident it has resources to extend Black Fox mine life

RON GRECH/THE DAILY PRESS Chris Stewart, president and chief operating officer of McEwen Mining, spoke to a business audience in Timmins Thursday, providing an overview of his company's operations with an emphasis on the Black Fox mining complex in Black River-Matheson. The company also has mining operations in Nevada, Mexico and Argentina. Ron Grech / Ron Grech/The Daily Press

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The company that owns the Black Fox mine east of Timmins is applying the same methodology that helped extend the operating life of Kirkland Lake Gold.

Chris Stewart, president and chief operating officer of McEwen Mining, was the guest speaker at a Timmins Chamber of Commerce luncheon Thursday where he provided an overview of the company’s operations.

Stewart, who was previously vice-president of operations with Kirkland Lake Gold, came on board with McEwen last August.

The Black Fox property in Black River-Matheson was purchased from Primero Mining in October 2017 for $35 million.

At the time it was a money-losing operation with a year and a half of predicted lifespan.

McEwen wasted no time with exploration drilling.

Stewart spoke about five different properties that have mining potential, but the McEwen’s focus has been on two of them.

McEwen spent $18 million in exploration on the Black Fox and adjacent Stock property in 2018 and have committed another $20 million for this year.

“We’re coming in at just over 48,000 ounces for 2018 (from the underground Black Fox mine) so our focus, we need to grow the resource and increase mine life,” said Stewart. “Right now we’re sitting with a year and a half, prior to my arrival … That’s why our focus is really on exploration and drilling this deposit because we know there’s gold there, we just don’t know exactly where it is.”

With the strong focus right now on exploration, Stewart anticipates “similar gold production in 2019 as we did in 2018” from the Black Fox mining operation.

“Last year, we did a very successful exploration program and we’re taking that data and putting it into the resource database and basically building out now what we have so we can build that into the mine plan and hopefully see an extension in the mine life just based on 2018 work. And then again, we’re investing $20 million more this year to build that out, hopefully a couple more years of mine life coming out of that.”

Stewart said their mine plan will be presented to the board of directors in February.

Both Stewart and company chairman Robert McEwen have a track record of reigniting mining operations and extending their lifespan.

“No different from when I got to Kirkland Lake Gold and they had 1,350 people working there,” Stewart recalled. “When I left, we were down to about 900 but that operation is now hugely successful and is going to run for many, many years.

“My interest in Black Fox and the Timmins camp is essentially the same thing. I didn’t want to see 260 people work for another year and then work stop. I’d rather have 210 people work for the next 20 years, if that’s what it is going to be.

“I think we can step back, make a bit of money, invest that and then start to grow this and start adding people back in a more responsible fashion. So that’s kind of our focus at Black Fox right now.”

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