With mine operations in Flin Flon set to close in 2021, Hudbay is planning expansion elsewhere in northern Manitoba – specifically in and around Snow Lake.
The most likely scenario for Flin Flon has not changed. Mining operations at 777, the Flin Flon zinc plant and the mill will likely cease in 2021. In the near future, the company plans to increase production rates at both 777 and Lalor mine while attempting to manage costs associated with running both mines.
Meanwhile, the company will continue with its refurbishment project of the New Britannia gold mill at Snow Lake. Hudbay director of corporate communications Scott Brubacher said Hudbay plans to fund the New Brit project “through internal resources.”
“Our priority objective is to offer opportunities in Snow Lake to existing employees. To support that, we will be looking to provide training so that we have the right skills for the roles that need to be filled and people have the chance to learn skills to fill them,” Brubacher said in a statement to The Reminder.
The company anticipates 50 new jobs will be created once the New Britannia gold mill is operational, with Hudbay employees filling some positions previously held by contractors.
The property, at one point one of Snow Lake’s most active mine sites, “has significant upside potential from nearby satellite deposits,” according to a Hudbay press release, adding that the site is one of many “near-term catalysts” that could materially increase the value of the company.
“We are now actively assessing and planning for employment needs going forward. The first step is to define future workforce requirements in Snow Lake,” said Brubacher.
Along with the new gold mill project, Hudbay projects around 500 employees working at Lalor mine, with another 80 working at the nearby Stall concentrator.
No specific information has been released yet regarding Hudbay’s relations with Flin Flon during the closure scenario, but Brubacher said the company has “worked actively in this respect and will continue to do so.”
“We care about Flin Flon’s long-term future,” said Brubacher.
Exploration will also be focused further on the Snow Lake area.
“Last year, we spent $19 million on exploration in Manitoba. For 2019, we expect a comparable level of activity with a significant focus on the Snow Lake area. The exact budget will be announced in the next few weeks,” said Brubacher.
In addition to Snow Lake, Hudbay is looking further at areas near Goose Lake, about 40 kilometres southeast of Flin Flon, where aerial surveys have shown positive results.
“We have been drilling the favourable targets identified from our airborne survey. We have yet to locate any new ore bodies, but the drill program is continuing,” said Brubacher.
Meanwhile in Flin Flon, Hudbay has held discussions with officials from all area communities, including a meeting for elected officials on Jan. 24, increasing their own efforts to find common ground with regional figures.
Flin Flon Mayor Cal Huntley attended the meeting and discussed what went on behind closed doors at the Jan. 29 meeting of Flin Flon City Council, saying Hudbay CEO Alan Hair, Hudbay Manitoba Business Unit vice president Rob Assabgui and Hudbay director of health, safety and aboriginal and external affairs Richard Trudeau were present to meet with local leaders.
“It was to bring us up to speed with the video that they had been presenting to their employees, sort of an update as to where they were at,” said Huntley.
“We’ve got to plan for the worst and hope for the best. That will put us in a good position, either way. We’re going to continue until we officially hear something, whether its plans for a closure as has been presented or not, and we will continue to hope over the next few years. Nothing’s changed.”
Brubacher said the company has been talking and working with union, community and government officials and will continue to play a role in planning for the transition under the closure scenario.
“We have significantly enlarged the team within the company that is managing all aspects of the transition to 2021 and then beyond it. We are in regular contact with leadership through the communities and provinces,” he said.
Out of Hudbay’s Manitoba operations, around 250 employees will be eligible for retirement within the next three years. Currently, around 800 people work for Hudbay in Flin Flon. Hudbay has yet to establish the number of positions that will be eliminated once Flin Flon operations are shuttered.