Amid questions over the future of mining and processing in Flin Flon comes some encouraging statements from the head of Hudbay’s Manitoba operations.
In an email interview with The Reminder, Rob Winton reiterated Hudbay’s 2015 finding that there are no new potential ore bodies within 777 mine.
But he also said Hudbay “will continue to work with the junior mining community to find the next mine in northern Manitoba or Saskatchewan.”
What does that cooperation look like?
“Working with juniors takes on many forms and is done on a case by case basis,” Winton said, “from optioning land for them to explore, to partnering in advanced exploration or mine development, to sharing information and technical know-how, etc.”
Added Winton: “We have the infrastructure in the Flin Flon Greenstone Belt and are working to ensure it is sustained.”
To be clear, there is no word of a new mine within the Flin Flon area at this time. It is also commonly believed that if Hudbay found or purchased an undeveloped deposit today, there would likely be a gap between the 777 closure and the new site’s commissioning as a mine.
Winton said Hudbay does not consider Foran Mining Corp’s McIlvenna Bay deposit, located 90 km west of Flin Flon, to be economically viable for its operations. Ditto for Callinex Mines’ Pine Bay property 16 km east of the community.
Pine Bay is still under exploration, while Foran believes McIlvenna Bay will eventually make production regardless of Hudbay’s lack of interest in the copper-zinc project.
If there is a deposit that Hudbay deems economically viable, Winton said the company is interested in mining it.
As for the Flin Flon metallurgical complex, Winton said that with 777 lacking life-extending ore bodies, Hudbay has commenced “long-range planning” vis-à-vis the facility.
He said due diligence around the complex, as well as Hudbay’s plan for Snow Lake projects surrounding a gold zone and the former New Britannia mill, will take most of this year to complete.
“As decisions are made they will be shared with our employees and all other stakeholders,” Winton said.
“We will announce pertinent information as timely as possible knowing that employees and the communities are very interested in Hudbay’s future operating plans as much as our current results.”
He also took the opportunity to quash ongoing rumours of a summer shutdown at Hudbay.
“There will be no summer shutdown at Hudbay Manitoba,” Winton said. “Our mandate is unchanged, safely produce within our guided metal production while reducing our costs significantly.”
Another false rumour, according to Winton, is that the zinc plant has surpassed the lifespan for which it was constructed.
“The zinc plant has been in operation since 1930, casting plant since the mid-1970s, ZPL since 1993 and the cellhouse since 2001,” he said. “I do not believe an expiry date was placed on any part of the zinc plant and it will run as long as we can economically produce or purchase concentrate.”
Flin Flon mayor Cal Huntley said Winton’s comments fit the times.
“Given the challenging metal markets and current business environment, I find Mr. Winton’s comments accurate and appropriate,” he said. “We are presently in a downturn but no one is turning out the lights.”
Hudbay announced last year that 777 mine is projected to close in 2020. Lalor mine near Snow Lake, a mine that employs many commuting Flin Flonners, is projected to last at least another 20-plus years.
The smaller Reed mine, which also counts commuting Flin Flonners among its workforce, is projected to close around 2020.