THUNDER BAY, ON - January 21, 2010 - Bill Biggar Joined North American Palladium in October of 2008, and one of his first decisions was to close the Lac Des Isles mine north of Thunder Bay. At the time the prices of palladium the mines principal product had fallen with the down turn in the market and some creative selling of palladium on the world market by some Russian producers. Biggar calculates that the move to shut the mine down saved the company about $75M. His company went on to look for a mining resource that was still profitable during the downturn in palladium fortunes. They found what they were looking for when they purchased Cadiscor’s closed “Sleeping Giant” gold mine in Quebec. This mine has just re-opened to commercial production January 1st and will continue to diversify and add to the precious metal company’s revenues.
On Friday palladium prices closed at $442.80 an ounce, a great improvement from the low of $164 per ounce seen last year. As automotive production creeps back and environmental standards are increased there will be a greater demand for the precious metal which makes catalytic converters work in cars. For next year the price should remain stable around $450 - $550 per ounce. Now is a good time to re-start the LDI mine. Expect an opening by the beginning of the first quarter, around May 1st.
The mine will not re-open as it was. LDI will be a strictly underground operation. They will be going after the high grade ore in the “Roby” zone for the next two years. During that time the mine will sink a new shaft into their recently defined “offset” ore deposit. This will allow continued production for many years to come.
Since the mine will be an underground operation, the daily tonnage will be less than when the mine was operating as an open pit. Miners with excess milling capacity will be looking for partners to fill that capacity. One such possibility is an arrangement with Marathon PMG who could ship or to the mill for processing.
Biggar, a former Barrick Gold executive is keen on adding more gold producing properties to his company’s portfolio. They are actively looking for gold mines at or near the production stage. This search could take them to a second property in Quebec but it could also include Peru and Mexico.
At the very least the decision to re-open is good news for Thunder Bay. Should they decide to maximize their mill at LDI it could be good news for Marathon as well.