North American Palladium Ltd. is an established precious metals producer headquartered in Toronto, Ontario. Since 1993, the Company has been operating its flagship Lac des Iles (LDI) mine in northern Ontario. This mine is one of only two primary palladium producers globally. Established in 1968, North American Palladium explores for palladium, platinum, gold, nickel, copper, and other metals.
Palladium is one of the six Platinum Group Metals (PGMs) comprising: platinum, palladium, osmium, ruthenium, iridium and rhodium. PGMs are most normally used for technological advances in the autocatalysts, power generation, alternative fuel sources, transportation, electronics, as well as healthcare fields.
Palladium has the lowest melting point and is the least dense of these six. The principal use for palladium continues to be the manufacture of catalytic converters. Catalytic converters undergo incorporation into the exhaust system of the majority of the vehicles that burn fossil-fuels.
Growing and expected future applications for palladium include fuel cells, hydrogen gas generation from natural gas, nano technology and super-capacity hard drives. Moreover, regarding the current trends in palladium consumption for jewellery, China remains the largest consumer of platinum and palladium jewellery.
The Lac des Iles (LDI) mine is now undergoing a major expansion to grow production and decrease cash costs per ounce. This mine expansion consists of converting underground operations to shaft access mining while employing a high-volume bulk mining method.
The LDI mine property is roughly 90 km northwest of Thunder Bay, Ontario. LDI started production as an open pit in 1993. It expanded underground in 2006 mining the underground Roby Zone. North American Palladium began an expansion of the underground mine in late 2010, to access the Offset Zone, and to transition operations from ramp haulage to shaft haulage.
The LDI mine is now changing from a large open stope blast hole mining method to a variation of sub-level cave mining. This is where ore is extracted from progressively lower production levels of the mine and waste fill undergoes introduction to the top of the production zone. This method is denoted as sub-level shrinkage (SLS). The expectation is that this method will decrease the issues the mine has been experiencing with seismicity and lead to more consistent production throughput.
For Q3 2016, the mill processed 520,002 tonnes consisting of a blend of underground ore and surface low grade stockpiles. This resulted in a blended head grade of 2.5 g/t and mill recoveries of 81.1 percent.
The 2015 Preliminary Economic Assessment (PEA) report anticipates extending the LDI mine life to 2029 and recommencing surface mining via the expansion of the existing pit and resourceful processing of the surface low-grade stockpile and reclaimed tailings. The mine plan for LDI features production increases with a diminishing cash cost profile and expanding operating margins.
North American Palladium presently has a three-tiered exploration strategy:
- Exploration, resource delineation and conversion drilling at the LDI mine property (Mine Block Intrusion).
- Greenfields exploration on other LDI suite intrusions in the immediate neighbourhood of the mine.
3. Monitoring of competitor PGE exploration projects in other parts of Canada.