Friday, February 29, 2008

Timmins attends prospectors convention

A delegation from Timmins is on it’s way to Toronto to take part in the annual convention of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada(PDAC).
“Team Timmins will be there with full colours,” says Robert Calhoun, the project manager for Discover Abitibi, the mineral exploration initiative run by the Timmins Economic Development Corportation (TEDC).
The annual convention brings together literally thousands of prospectors, geologists, mining company representatives and financiers from around the world to discuss what’s new and what’s hot in mining exploration and mining in general.
Registration for the convention begins today and the convention officially gets underway on Sunday. It wraps up on Wednesday.
Timmins will have an exhibit kiosk and a delegation of city officials will be on hand to meet and greet members of the mining exploration community to sell them on the idea of setting up shop in Timmins.
Calhoun says it’s important that the mining world be reminded that there is a thriving city, complete with trained workers, sitting in the middle of one of the richest mining regions of Canada.
“Timmins is one of those places where people want to be if they’re in the mining exploration business,” he said.
On Monday, Ontario mines minister Michael Gravelle will be attending the Timmins exhibit to hold a news conference and make an announcement about mining exploration in Northeastern Ontario.

Mayor approves federal budget

The federal budget had more positive things than disappointments for Timmins and Northern Ontario, according to Mayor Tom Laughren.
Like many other Canadian mayors, Laughren said he was glad to see that a portion of the federal gasoline tax is being made a permanent part of federal spending with $2 billion per year to be shared by all municipalities.
“We can start utilizing that for other things than just capital projects,” Laughren told The Times.
“Previously, because it was a kind of a year-to-year thing, people weren’t planning on it in their operating budget as an example, so this may be something that we can re-look at how we do the gas tax.”
The mayor says he is also pleased that Ottawa has decided to continue with the Super Flow-through Share Program tax incentive, which promotes investment in mining exploration.
“And that’s a good thing when you look at mining activity and what this does for the junior mining companies here. I think it’s a step in the right direction,” said Laughren.
The flow-through program was to have expired next month, but the federal government has decided to extend the program for another year.
“I would like to have seen this go one for three or four years, just because it becomes continuous lobbying we have to do, to ensure it’s in the budget, but yes, we are happy with it.”
Bob Calhoun, the project manager for the city sponsored Discover Abitibi intiative agrees it’s good for Timmins.
He says it works to raise “millions and millions of dollars” for mining exploration.
“The super flow through share program is one of those things that people depend upon to get exploration cash,” he said.
“You can’t use it sitting around the office, its for exploration. You must be out in the field, which of course has a ripple effect again because you’ve got drills working, you’ve got people working, you’ve got people staying in hotels, you’ve got all that kind of good stuff going on,” he said.
The federal government has also provided an additional $500 million for municipal transit infrastructure; things like buses, subway lines and streetcars.
It appears the bulk of that money has been ear-marked for projects in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. Laughren says he is hoping some of that funding may trickle down to Timmins.
“When you look at a community like Timmins we definitely need transit as much as any of these larger communities,” said the mayor.
“The way I look at it, they just have more zeros in their budget than we do . But at the end of the day, the need in Timmins is as great as the need in Toronto. I think if you look at the spread of our community and the size of our community and things like the price of gas I really feel that transit will become important. There will be higher ridership in Timmins. And that’s going to pose some challenges,” said Laughren.
The mayor added that for every dollar spent on Timmins Transit, only 31-cents comes back from ticket sales. The other 69-cents is subsidized by city hall.
“We’ve got to shorten that gap. So that may help us as well,” he said.
Laughren added he was hoping the federal politicians would have applied more money toward infrastructure.
“When you look at our roads, our water, sewer, the pipes in the ground, it’s a huge challenge for us, from the tax base that we have, to be able to keep up,” he said.
“And you know we continuously lobby the provincial government which tells us the federal government needs to cough up more money for infrastructure,” said Laughren.
He noted that $10 billion of the federal surplus is being applied toward the national debt.
“It’s a great thing to put money against the debt, but I think if you look at the infrastructure shortfall we have in this country, I think there needed to be a little bit more thought of money being towards infrastructure. So that would probably the biggest disappointment I had in the budget,” he added.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Goldcorp reports best ever earnings

Gold has been good to Goldcorp Inc. The Vancouver based mining company, which owns Porcupine Gold Mines in Timmins, has reported a year-end profit of $460 million for 2007.
That amount includes record high fourth-quarter earnings of $256 million.
Goldcorp also reports that company wide gold production was up by 35 per cent to 2.3 million ounces.
The company says it expects that figure to increase to 2.6 million ounces of gold production in 2008, with a production cost of roughly $250 per ounce.
The company also announced this past week that its proven and probable ore reserves has increased by nine per cent, company wide, to more than 43 million ounces.
Part of that increase is due to the fact that Goldcorp now owns all the former Porcupine Joint Venture properties in the Timmins area, after buying out the 49 percent Kinross share of PJV last year.
Goldcorp owns all the major historic gold properties in Timmins, which includes the Hollinger, the McIntyre, the Dome, the Pamour, the Delnite, the Hallnor and Hoyle Pond mines.
A company news releases says proven and probable gold reserves in Timmins are 3.49 million ounces.
The news has driven prices of Goldcorp shares to a 21-month high with shares trading at more than $41 this week.
“Our strong performance in the fourth quarter of 2007 is a clear indication that the initiatives we set out at the beginning of the year have taken hold throughout the organization,” said Kevin McArthur, President and Chief Executive Officer. “Many of our most important projects and operations experienced their best performance in the quarter.”
Goldcorp completed the asset swap transaction that resulted in 100% ownership of the Porcupine Gold Mines in northeastern Ontario and the Musselwhite gold mine in northwestern Ontario in exchange for the La Coipa silver-gold mine in Chile, says a company statement.
In Timmins, the company says reduced production at the Pamour open pit was offset by strong production from the Hoyle Pond and Dome underground operations.
Gold production for Porcupine Gold Mines was 43,400 ounces, reflecting 51% ownership until December 21, 2007, after which production reflected 100% ownership, the company reported in a news release.
The price of gold has been reaching record high levels in recent weeks. This week, gold was trading in London as high as $948 an ounce. Gold futures were selling at more than $950.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Timmins to study water meters

The city is going to explore the idea of having water meters installed in residential homes.
City Engineer Luc Duval is preparing a Request For Proposal on a study to have Timmins switch to water meters with a user-pay billing plan.
Currently in Timmins, most home owners pay a flat rate for their water regardless of the amount of residential water use. Many businesses, and some home owners, have opted for water meters in instances where not a lot of water is used on a regular basis.
Duval told council he will be working throughout the spring to put together terms of reference on such things as the cost of installing meters, what type of meters and how to set rates.
He said the Timmins plan would likely be modeled after a similar study being done by the City of North Bay, which is also studying its water rates.
“It will be fairly extensive,” Duval told council, saying his hope is that the study will give the city an action plan and some options on how to put a water meter system in place.
“All this goes hand in hand in terms of water conservation and pay-for-what-you-use,” he said.
“And I know council has been vocal in looking at that as a strategy, so this is something that will address that. Certainly the people that use less water should pay less.”
Councillor Pat Bamford expressed concern the idea might backfire with some residents paying significantly higher rates.
“I am concerned on direction you are going with that,” Bamford told Duval.
“When I spoke on this it was never my intention to blanket the city with water meters because the way the set-up is now, it will be too costly for some households,” he said. “They’d be paying more than what they’re paying now. And yet some larger homes might be paying less. We really have to look at how we’re going.”
City administrator Joe Torlone said that in order for a meter system to work properly, all 18,000 households in the Timmins would have to be on the meter system.
“I want to make it clear. It cannot be voluntary, like where this house is on a meter, and the next two houses are not, and so on.” Torlone told council.
“And regardless what billing system you go to, we still have to pay for the water. It just all depends on how we divide it up.”
“This is just my opinion. It would have to be a decision of council,” Torlone conceded. He added that it wouldn’t necessarily mean a free ride for low water users either. He said the water bill would begin with a flat rate and then rise gradually depending on how much water you use.
“Everybody pays whether you use one ounce or one litre or 100,000 litres,” said Torlone.
“It starts as a flat rate and then you add to that. And so senior citizens, and low income people or those who don’t have great water use would then pay accordingly.
“The ones who decide to water their driveways or fill their pools would pay a higher amount,” Torlone suggested.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Palliative care hospice needed

On any given day in Timmins, there are 20 to 30 people struggling in the final days of their lives, who could use palliative care hospice services.
It’s one of the key factors in why a feasibility study has been commissioned to look into a palliative care hospice to comfort the dying, in Timmins.
The Timmins Hospice Palliative Care Action Team announced the plan on Friday at a news conference. The study will be carried out by Christine Leclair Planning and Consulting of Timmins.
Andre Paradis of Horizon Timmins Palliative Care Inc., says “hospice palliative care is a philosophy of care” that can take many forms.
“I think for most of us, when we think of hospice, we tend to think of a stand-alone residential hospice, but it can be provided in a variety of settings or even in a long-term care facility,” said Paradis.
“You can have hospice palliative care within the home or in the hospital or in a residential hospice.
Joan Ludwig, of the Porcupine VON, who chairs the team, says the need for palliative care has become urgent.
“This is an initiative that is very timely and very critical for us to address.”
Timmins and District Hospital (TDH) administrator Esko Vanio agreed. He told the news conference that the demand for hospice palliative care in Timmins was identified in studies done in 2004 and again in 2006.
Vanio says the recent overcrowding at TDH makes the concern more pressing.
“Obviously there have been challenges in the few weeks since the end of November in looking after palliative care patients at the same time you’re looking at an over-capacity situation in the hospital,” said Vanio.
“And its very important that we have the services enhanced in the community where patients and their loved ones want to have that care in their homes or in other facilities, other than the hospital, in their last few weeks.
Family physician and team member Patrick Critchley said palliative care needs are urgent across Canada, especially in remote and rural areas.
“Most Canadians would prefer to die at home, or to stay at home as long as possible, during their terminal illness,” said Dr. Critchley.
“Part of what this project is about is trying to help those patients meet their wishes,” he added.
Consultant Christine Leclair says she expects to have the study complete by the end of April.
Although different members of the team have different ideas of what sort of hospice would be best for Timmins, Leclair says all ideas will be explored.
“I think initially the idea is to get a good grasp of the models that are actually out there -- get a good understanding of the capital, operational funding sources in the community and try to figure out what makes the most sense,” she said.
With respect to funding for a hospice, the team said community support would be required, but funding is also expected from Ontario’s Ministry of Health and Long Term Care.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Fire on Timcor

Firefighters from Timmins, Mountjoy and Schumacher responded to a garage fire on Timcor Crescent in the city, around 11:00 p.m. Saturday. There’s no word yet on how the fire began, but strong winds fanned the flames and poured choking smoke throughout the neighbourhood. Firefighters were worried because there were propane tanks in the garage, but those did not ignite. There were no reports on anyone being injured. Firefighters had the blaze under control before midnight. (Click the pic to enlarge)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Treeplanting cuts cause concern

The Timmins Times has learned that tree planting and forest regeneration in the Timmins area is decreasing to the point that local forestry officials are alarmed.
The Timmins LCC (Local Citizens’ Committee) is expressing concern that no new tree planting will take place in 2009, a situation that one committee member says will have a long-term damaging impact on both the Romeo Malette Forest and the Nighthawk Forest.
The role of the LCC is to advise the local office of the Ministry of Natural Resources on resource management issues, primarily related to forestry.
At least three members of the committee have expressed concern, but as yet, none is on the record. The concern is that any decision to stop tree-planting in Timmins will have a detrimental impact on the environmental, and economic, sustainability of the local forests.
The official minutes of the LCC tell part of the story. The money to buy seedlings and hire tree-planters comes from the stumpage fees paid by forestry companies to the MNR.
According to the LCC documents, the money being provided by Tembec and Abitibi-Bowater is decreasing substantially.
In the January minutes, concern was expressed by committee member Jenny Millson, of Millson Forestry Service in Timmins.
“Jenny informed the LCC that no trees are being scheduled to be planted on the Nighthawk and Romeo Malette Forests in 2009. This is based on the fact that no seedlings have been ordered for that planting year. Planting is still scheduled for 2008. This is a concern to her as a contractor, as it negatively impacts her business and other suppliers in Timmins; as a forester, as it is not regenerating the forest in a timely manner; as an employer, as it means 50-80 students will not be hired for the tree plant and nursery, and as a Timmins resident, as these students (many of them local) will not be returning to the north. It is felt that the reason for not scheduling tree plants in 2009 is that the Forest Renewal Trust funds of these Forests are presently below minimum balance and the money is not available now to purchase seedlings. It is felt that the lower Forest Renewal Trust rates ($4.36/m3) and harvesting of areas with lower stand volumes have led to this problem. It was suggested as a solution that government provide addition funding for regeneration to the forest industry during this difficult time, similar to the roads funding program.”
One other member has expressed concern that every year that planting is not done, it’s another year lost for sustainable growth of trees.
“If they don’t do more growth, the ecological footprint of this whole thing just gets bigger and bigger. Eventually you have to cut more land area to get the same volume of wood. That’s not good, that’s not good at all.”
The LCC has sent letters of concern to both companies. Eventually the concern will be sent to the office of the Minister of Natural Resources.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

City council votes to fix up city hall

Timmins City Council has decided to move ahead with plans to renovate the city council chambers despite the efforts of one councillor to have the money and manpower directed to upgrading the McIntyre Community Building.
The cost is estimated to be approximately $65,000 along with roughly 1,000 man-hours of work performed by city tradesmen.
Coun. Bill Gvozdanovic tried to convince council to put the project aside saying it wasn’t really necessary, even though council had provided for the project in its spending budget.
“I would like to see this matter deferred until we get a report back from Building and Maintenance on how we could use that money on the McIntyre Arena, which we’ve identified you know as something that has to be looked at,” he said.
Gvozdanovic went so far as to table a motion to defer the project.
“The question is one of priority,” said Gvozdanovic. “Is it the council chamber, at this moment, or is it the McIntyre Arena? I will certainly vote against this resolution and would certainly want to see a report on how we can apply this money.”
Coun. Pat Bamford says he is not against the council renovation per se, but he doesn’t agree with the layout of the councillors’ desks, which will move toward two straight lines of tables, instead of the semi-circular layout that exists now.
Bamford said the layout of two straight tables would seem undignified.
Coun. Gary Scripnick said it was normal and reasonable to keep city buildings “up to par” especially since the spending had already been approved.
Council was told that the new layout is not etched in stone and that it could be amended in such a way as to meet most needs and concerns.
The motion to defer the work was put before council and resulted in a tie vote, with Mayor Tom Laughren breaking the tie in favor on having the project move ahead.
The renovation will see the council floor raised by five inches so that wiring for computers, electricity and the in-house sound system can be accommodated. This will also mean creating a ramp at the entrance to the council chamber to allow for wheelchairs.
The ramp will mean that seating benches for approximately five people will have to be removed. It means the public gallery capacity will go from forty seated persons to 35 seated persons.
The renovation work is expected to occur in the month of April, at which time council will hold its meetings at the Timmins Public Library.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Porcupine Lake fireworks

Hundreds of Timmins residents got out to Porcupine Lake this evening to watch the annual winter carnival fireworks. The freezing temperatures didn’t seem to stop anyone from enjoying the show. Darryl Cornell found a comfortable spot on Porcupine Lake for himself and his five-year-old daughter Erin Cornell to watch the show overhead.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Hollinger Mine Disaster - 80 years ago this week

The existence the Mine Rescue program in Ontario is directly related to a mining disaster in Timmins eighty years ago this weekend. Some of the most basic workplace safety rules that many take for granted today, are also tied to that event which still ranks as one of the worst mining disasters in Canadian history.
It all goes back to a cold February 10 morning in 1928, when 921 miners were at work in the numerous drifts, stopes and raises at the Hollinger Consolidated Gold Mine in Timmins. It was the largest gold mine in North America at the time.
According to evidence from the inquest, it was around 9:30 that morning that smoke was first noticed by underground and surface workers alike.
Mine officials were stunned. Conventional thinking at the time was that fires did not occur in hardrock metal mines, the way they occurred in "soft rock" such as coal mines. There were timbers in the mines, but the constant runoff of water made it unlikely for timbers to catch fire.
What no one considered at that moment was that there was an open excavation, on the 550-foot level, in Stope 55A, just east of crosscut tunnel number 12. A stockpile of trash, sawdust, powder boxes, paraffin paper and lumber had been accumulating.
Somehow that rubbish caught fire at about a quarter after nine that Friday morning.
In later years experts would suspect it was some form of spontaneous combustion. The result was a slow smoldering fire that would prove deadly.
As the trash burned, it created a grey-black smoke that began to roll along the tunnels. At 10 a.m. the first body was discovered and rushed to surface. At 10:15, another body was found. This was enough to send the men scrambling for the ladders and the shaft. Within three hours, hundreds of the miners got to surface and saved themselves. But not everyone could find their way to safety.
There was no organized mine rescue or fire fighting program in place at the Hollinger, or any other hardrock mine in Ontario for that matter.
It would take five days to put out the fire and find all the dead, but in the end 39 miners were dead, As a mining disaster in Ontario, it was unprecedented.
Many of the men who were underground would never know what killed them. Experts later concluded it was carbon monoxide poisoning that killed all 39 men. The odorless and colorless gas was produced by the slow-burning trash.
Fire fighting resources and expertise at the Hollinger were so bleak at the time that organized mine rescue teams from the coal mines of Pennsylvania were rushed to Timmins.
The men and material from the U.S. Bureau of Mines were put aboard an express train which was then rushed to Timmins.
Rushed is a relative term, considering the steam locomotive pulling a few specially equipped cars had to roll through northern Pennsylvania, into New York state, cross the border at Niagara Falls, pick up provincial officials in Toronto and then chug north to Timmins. The trip took a day and a half.
Upon arriving in Timmins, the American coal miners were able to put on their special gear, descend into the mine and get to work at putting out the fire.
As they began recovering the bodies, company officials were shocked to find that some of the miners had died while eating their lunch. Some of the dead were found with food still in their mouths. Company officials had no idea how quickly carbon monoxide could kill a man.
There was a huge public outcry over the loss of life. Within days, the Ontario government set up a royal commission through Ontario Mining Commissioner Judge T.E Godson to find out what happened and why.
Godson made his recommendations in September of that year.
He found that Hollinger Consolidated Gold Mines had not cast aside safety in favour of profits. What happened was an error of omission, Godson concluded. No one knew, or ever expected, a fire could, occur in a metal mine.
The report ordered that all accumulations of rubbish be removed from underground locations at least once a week. Both the manager and assistant mine manager at the Hollinger were reprimanded for not knowing there was an underground rubbish dump.
The report also ordered that fire doors be set on different levels to allow miners to escape smoke situations. One of the key suggestions was to establish special rescue stations in every major mining community that would have specialized equipment and training so the rescue operations could be mounted.
The lessons learned from the Godson Commission are things that many miners take for granted today, but the manager of Ontario’s Mine Rescue program says the Hollinger disaster highlighted the need for serious safety changes in mining in Ontario.
“Oh absolutely, there were so many recommendations integrated into legislation because of the Hollinger fire,” said Gryska who runs the program through the Mines and Aggregates Safety and Health Association.
He says perhaps the most notable was the creation of a formal mine rescue program in Ontario one year after the fire. The first ever Ontario Mine Rescue station was established in Timmins in 1929.
Gryska says Ontario Mine Rescue is now recognized as being one of the best such organizations in the world.
Another example is the fact that it is now against the law to store any garbage underground for more than a day.
“The fact that we don’t store trash underground, it was because of that fire,” said Gryska.
“What they did back then was they used explosives boxes, and all the cardboard and that, they just threw it into open stopes with greasy rags and things like that, they just threw it all in there and that was the source of the fuel for the fire.”
“They didn’t know, at that point in time. It probably made sense … why bring all this stuff up from underground, the cost of bringing it out was so costly, so it wasn’t done.”
He says another important ruling was that signs had to be posted throughout the mines.
“Miners today will see signs underground showing them fire exits. At that point in time one of the problems was that miners didn’t know where to go. They got lost in the smoke,” said Gryska.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Bobbing for Bobcats!

Oooops! A Bobcat excavator is retrieved from the chilly waters of Gillies Lake after falling through the ice Wednesday. No one was hurt in the incident and there was no spillage of fuel or contaminants.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Drilling on Pearl Lake

As first reported by The Timmins Times last month, Goldcorp has commenced exploration drilling on Pearl Lake to identify a possible new gold zone in the historic McIntyre Mine property. The drill began working today. (click on pic for full size)

Friday, February 1, 2008

Liberty opening a new mine

~Ramp construction is expected to start Monday on a brand new underground nickel mining operation for Liberty Mines Inc. which already has the Redstone nickel mining and milling operation in Timmins. The announcement was made on Wednesday.
The new mine, the McWatters Property, is located just nine kilometres east of the Redstone. It is expected to go into production in November.
Liberty Mines has come a long way since March of 2005 when it had $820 in the bank and more than 150 million liters of water at the Redstone Mine south of Timmins.
Company president Gary Nash assured a Timmins Chamber of Commerce lunch crowd recently that things are much improved since then.
Nash was invited by the chamber to outline how Timmins’ newest nickel mine got started and where it’s heading. The message was positive. Nash says not only does Liberty have money in the bank, but he also expects to move forward with more nickel discoveries in the area the company refers to as the Shaw-Dome properties, southwest of Nighthawk Lake.
He said Liberty now has three active properties in Timmins; the Redstone mine, which is in production; the McWatters property, now under construction and the Hart property, which is currently being explored by diamond drills.
Nash told the audience the geology in that area is similar to Australia’s Kambalda region, where 50 new mines have been discovered in the past 50 years.
Talking to reporters after the luncheon, Nash was optimistic.
“I’ll predict we’ll make a grassroots discovery this year,” he said.
He explained that the nickel in that area occurs in “pods” that were formed millions of years ago in volcanic lava channels. Nash said that the area was “under-explored” despite being owned by four different mining companies over the years.
Nash, who has a PhD in physics, said not enough research was done on the properties. He said that historically, the exploration drilling went to less than 200 feet.
“If everybody had looked the way they should have, the way these lava channels are formed and that’s why four previous owners of the Hart project just kinda gave up on it and its proving out for us to be one of the largest tonnage properties that we’ve got.”
Nash admitted things have come a long way since those days in early 2005 when there was $820 in the bank.
“Oh I can tell you that on the balance sheet, there’s 80-million dollars. All the money’s been spent. You can see it in the mill and in the mine’s infrastructure and it will start to show up in our bank account very, very shortly,” he said
“What we’ve done since is show the market that we are maintaining our goals and we’re proving up the resources that we said we would find.”