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More mine workers being hired

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New Gold’s Rainy River Project, located north of Barwick, remains on schedule for its mid-2017 start-up.

“We’re still on target,” general manager Grant Goddard noted Monday, adding employment at the site continues to increase weekly.

As of this week, there were 313 full-time New Gold employees.

“We’re in the middle of Wave 2, the next set of surface miners and maintenance, and early in Wave 3, which is the processing plant operators and maintenance,” Goddard explained.

“We have some crusher operators, control room operators, so about five or six hired for Wave 3,” he said, noting they will start to come on board about four-eight per week for the mill from December through April.

“Basically, it’s tied into getting your team in place before each of the assets is made available, the crusher, the conveyor, etc.,” Goddard remarked.

By May, he expects they will be up to about 410 employees.

“The number we always talked about, which is 450 for the surface mine and the mill . . . will come at the end of 2017 and the first quarter of 2018, when we get the last of our trucks and equipment,” Goddard said.

Then once they get started with the underground mining in about two years, New Gold likely will be up to about 600 employees.

Of the current employees, Goddard said about 74 percent are local, about 32 percent are aboriginal, and about 20 percent are female.

He would like to see more females on board and will be discussing how they can raise that number.

“At the beginning, we hired quite a few women, but we just haven’t seen the applications lately,” he noted.

As for development at the mine site, there is plenty to see these days.

Goddard said when conducting public tours recently, it’s much easier to show people now that more structures are in place.

“You used to just have to imagine this is going to be there,” he noted. “But now there are chunks of stuff there so you can figure it out.”

For instance, as of the end of September, overall construction progress was about 55 percent complete, with concrete placement more than 90 percent complete.

The steelwork erection and cladding, meanwhile, was more than 95 percent complete.

People can see where trucks will come to the crusher to dump the material from the mine, which then will be transferred to the processing plant via conveyors.

With the exterior of the processing plant largely complete, Goddard said the focus has shifted to setting processing equipment, as well as the installation of mechanical, piping, electrical, and instrumentation throughout the facility.

The SAG and ball mill shells have been set in place while the pre-leach thickener tank and leach tanks are complete.

All of the installation of mechanical, piping, electrical, and instrumentation is expected to be complete by late April.

“The theory is to get it all closed in before winter and then they can continue with the interior work,” Goddard reasoned.

“As it’s turned out, though, the weather has been awesome, which is good because we’ve been finishing our buried services, such as potable water and sewage, so it’s allowed us to keep doing that.”

Within the next month, the site will tie in to the Ontario power grid.

On the mine development side, New Gold has been continuing to ramp up in line with expectations.

Through the end of September, it had mined about 15 million tonnes of overburden and waste, moving construction rock to other parts of the project, and preparing the open pit for the start of production.

Goddard said they are working to develop the rock stockpiles.

“It’ll end up being all flat and then we’ll put the low-grade stockpile on top,” he explained, noting they’ll build about 1.2 million tonnes of low-grade stockpile material on there this April, May, and June.

“We’re avoiding ore right now,” Goddard said. “But as we get into the low grade at the beginning of next year, they’ll stockpile it so that we have it for the mill start-up.”

But the plan isn’t to use it for the mill start-up if they don’t have to. Rather, said Goddard, they’re hoping to have the equivalent drilled and blasted and ready to go in the pit.

Crews also are continuing to dig to the north and remove overburden.

They’re currently operating with 10 trucks and three shovels, with an additional six trucks still to be assembled and commissioned.

Goddard indicated the daily mining rate is scheduled to steadily increase to more than 145,000 tonnes per day by early 2017.

And the company is targeting the pre-stripping of 45 million-50 million tonnes of overburden and waste by the start of production in mid-2017.

Once in full production, the 21,000 tonne per day combined open pit and underground operation is scheduled to produce an average of 325,000 ounces of gold per year over the first nine years of the mine’s life.

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