Operations
Content Image

Niobec Niobium Mine, Québec

OVERVIEW

LOCATION

The Niobec underground niobium mine is located twenty five kilometres northwest of Ville de Saguenay (Chicoutimi), within the limits of the municipality of Saint-Honoré, Québec. This area is approximately 200 kilometres north of Québec City. The Niobec property covers a total area of approximately 1,735 hectares, comprising two mining leases and also includes 43 claims totalling 1,605.6 hectares. The Niobec Mine is readily accessible by existing paved roads and benefits from available water supply and hydroelectric generated power supply from the regional power grid. The Niobec mine is surrounded by a mixture of forest and farms.

Ville de Saguenay has a population of about 150,000. The city is serviced several times a day by regional airlines from Montreal. It is about a two and a half hour drive to Québec City and five hours to Montreal. Schools, hospitals, government services, suppliers and manpower are all available in Ville de Saguenay.


 

History

The Niobec mine is North America's only source of pyrochlore, the primary niobium ore and one of only three major producers of niobium in the world. The Niobec deposit has an excellent history of mineral reserve renewal over 30 years of operation. It is currently producing approximately 7 to 8% of world consumption.

The Niobec deposit was discovered in 1967. Commercial production of niobium pentoxide concentrates began in 1976. For the first 18 years of operation, production was shipped as concentrates to firms in Europe, India, Japan and the US and sold to intermediate processors for conversion into ferroniobium. Since1994 ferroniobium has been produced at the mine site and is directly marketed to the steel industry. Ferroniobium is used by steel and specialty metals manufacturers as an alloy to enhance the physical, mechanical, chemical and thermal properties of their products. Steels containing niobium are classified as High Strength Low Alloy (HSLA) steels and used in the pipeline, construction, aeronautical and automotive industries.

An expansion program in 2005 increased the mine's capacity by 20% and by a further 10% in 2006. Daily milling capacity was increased from 4,200 tonnes to 4,800 tonnes in the second half of 2006.

In 2007, as part of a $20.3 million capital program, a new hoist was installed and the headframe extended in preparation for a shaft deepening program to be carried out in 2008. The shaft was deepened from 550 metres to 817 metres.

In June 2008, the Company announced the positive results of a feasibility study for construction of a paste backfill system. A technical report was prepared showing that the paste backfill system would enable near complete extraction of the ore body at lower levels of the mine by using mill tailings mixed with binding material, significantly reducing the need to leave behind natural ore pillars.

In February 2009, the Company announced that proven and probable reserves as at December 31, 2008 increased 36% to 137,800 tonnes of contained Nb2O5, based on the use of paste backfill.

By Q3 2010, both the paste backfill project and mill expansion were completed.

Milestones:
1967        Niobec mine discovered by SOQUEM Inc.
1976        Commercial production of niobium pentoxide concentrates
1986        Cambior Inc. acquires SOQUEM's 50% interest in Niobec
1994        Commercial production of ferroniobium
2001        Mazarin Inc. acquires Teck Corporation's 50% interest in Niobec
2003        Sequoia Minerals Inc. is created after the reorganisation of Mazarin
2004        Cambior acquires remaining 50% interest in Niobec from Sequoia Minerals
2006        IAMGOLD acquires the Niobec mine through the Cambior transaction
2008        Feasibility Study & Technical Report identifies significant increase in Niobec mine life
2010        Paste backfill plant and 24% mill expansion project completed