Canada is the third largest copper producer in the world, after Chile and the USA. It is also the world’s largest zinc and second largest nickel and lead producer. Canada produced 534,287 t of copper concentrate in 2003, representing a continuing decrease as a result of several mine suspensions and closures. Most of Canada’s copper prodcution comes from mines in Ontario, British Colombia and Quebec.Existing and future Canadian copper production is affected both by copper prices and by the prices of other coproduct and by-product metals.
The production of copper in Canada is associated with the production of other metals (and sulphuric acid). There is no Canadian copper mine whose revenue from its domestic operations is derived entirely from copper. Most of Canada’s base metals are hosted by massive sulphide sources (e.g. the Sudbury complex) as well as porphyry deposits (e.g. the Highlands Valley Porphyry).
In most cases copper is produced as a co product with nickel, zinc, lead and gold. A small number of producers, including Noranda, Inco, Falconbridge, Teck Cominco, Boliden and Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting, dominate base metal production in Canada.
Although Noranda is a world leading zinc and nickel producer, it also produces significant amounts of copper from four lead – zinc – silver mining operations in New Brunswick and Quebec. The Gaspe underground mine, situated at Needle Mountain, Quebec, closed in 1999. The Gallen Mine near Rouyn-Noranda in Quebec was reopened in 1997 with an estimated further 3 years of production from probable reserves containing 1.1 Mt grading at an average copper grade 4.7% zinc, 0.16% copper and minor gold and silver. After a shaky start, Noranda has begun production at the copper – zinc Bell Allard Mine situated in northern Quebec. The mine has an estimated five year life from proven reserves of 980 000t of ore averaging 11.8% zinc and 1.1% copper.
The Louvicourt mine located at Val d’Or in Quebec is one of the lowest cost underground producers in Northern America. The Louvicourt mine has remaining proven and probable reserves estimated at 7.5 Mt grading 3.3% copper, 1.8% zinc, 28. g/t silver and 0.9 g/t gold. The mine is owned by Aur Resources (30%), Teck Cominco (25%) and Novicourt Inc.(45%).
Falconbridge (of which Noranda owns 55 %) produces nickel and copper at its world class nickel copper deposits at Sudbury, Raglan and Kidds Creek. Sudbury division is comprised of five underground mines. The Onaping – Craig mine produce 42% of Sudbury’s output. Sudbury Division has estimated proven and probable reserves of 23.5 Mt grading at an average of 1.55% nickel and 1.33% copper. The Raglan mine is situated west of Kangiqsujuaq in the Ungava Peninsula, Quebec. Raglan was officially opened in 1998 and has proven and probable reserves estimated at 19 Mt grading at an average 2.85% nickel and 0.77% copper. The Kidds Creek division comprises three mines of which the No 1 mine produces more than 50%. Depending on metal prices, production from the Kidds Creek mines is set to decline gradually over the following years due to increasing depth of operations. All three operations produce cobalt as a by-product of operations.
Teck Cominco is one of the world’s largest zinc producers, also producing lead, copper, molybdenum and germanium. Teck Cominco operates several base metal mines across Canada, including the world’s most northerly mine, Polaris, at Little Cornwallis Island, Nunavut. The Polaris mine has identified additional ore reserves, which may extend the life of mine. At the end of 1998, Polaris had proven and probable reserves estimated at 3 Mt grading at 12.8% zinc and 3.3% lead. The famous Sullivan mine in British Colombia, once Canada’s largest lead producer has a few years of operation left before closing. The Sullivan Mine also produced antimony as a by product of its lead extraction.
Boliden acquired the Myra Falls underground zinc copper mines on Vancouver Island, British Colombia in 1998. After suspending operations for several months due to poor ground conditions, production resumed in March 1999. Myra Falls produced 52 000t zinc, 15 000 t copper, 21 500 oz gold and 0.5 Moz silver. The mine has estimated proven and probable reserves of over 6.7 Mt grading at an average of 7.7% zinc, 1.5% copper, 0.4 % lead, 1.4 g/t gold and 35 g/t silver.
Canada’s largest base metal mine, Highlands Valley, suspended operations for five months 1999 due to the poor copper prices. The mine is located 75 km southwest of Kamloops, in central British Columbia. Highlands Valley Copper is owned by Teck Cominco (64% interest) and Billiton Base Metals (33.6%), and Highmont 2.5%. The mine has remaining proven and probable reserves of 417 Mt grading at 0.42% copper.
Inco supplies approximately 26% of the world’s nickel requirements. It also produces copper, gold and cobalt as a by product. Inco has mining centres at Sudbury and at its Manitoba divisions. Sudbury consists of four mines, while the Manitoba division has two mines. Efforts to bring the world famous Voisey’s Bay nickel copper cobalt mine into production have failed, with Inco and the Newfoundland provincial government failing to agree on issues concerning the location of smelter facilities. Voisey’s Bay has total resources estimated at 124 Mt.
The Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting Company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Anglo American and operates several mines in Manitoba. Of note are the two new developing mines, Chisel North and the 777 project.
A relative junior to the base metal scene in Canada is Breakwater Resources, which has acquired two of Camber’s mine’s for $48 million. Breakwater now has three base metal mines, two in Quebec (the Bouchard Hebert and Langlois mines).
There are few primary antimony mines in Canada, with most production as by products of base metal mining operations. Roycefield Resources owns the Beaver Brook antimony mine in Newfoundland which has been placed on care and maintenance since 1998. The deposit has probable reserves of grading at over 4.1% antimony.
Imperial Metals Corporation produces copper and molybdenum from the Huckleberry mine located in British Columbia.
Agnico-Eagle Mines Limited
Aur has a 30% interest in the Louvicourt mine in Quebec.
Barrick Gold Corporation
Boliden produces copper as a by product of its lead – zinc operations at the Myra Falls mine in BC.
Breakwater Resources Ltd.
Campbell Resources Inc
Falconbridge produces copper as a by product of its nickel operations at Sudbury, Raglan and Kidds Creek.
Highland Valley Copper
Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting Company Ltd
Imperial Metals Corporation
INCO produces copper as a by product of its nickel mining operations at its Sudbury and Manitoba Divisions.
Inmet Mining Corporation
Les Mines Selbaie
Noranda operates the Gallen and Bell Allard mines in Quebec and BC, respectively.
North American Palladium Ltd
Northgate Exploration Ltd
Teck Cominco Limited
Teck Cominco have a 63.9% interest in the Highlands Valley Copper mine in BC.