Located in the far north region of Québec, Xstrata Nickel's Raglan property consists of a series of high-grade ore deposits, with nickel and copper as the primary metals.
The operation consists of open pit and underground mines, a concentrator, a power plant, accommodation and administration buildings, fresh water supply and fuel storage tanks.
The mine site is linked by all-weather roads to an airstrip at Donaldson and to the concentrate, storage and ship-loading facilities at Deception Bay.
Approximately 85%-90% of the production at Raglan comes from underground sources, with the remainder coming from an open pit.
The Raglan Mine is in northern Quebec, north of the 60th parallel, nearly 1,100 miles north of Montreal. Nunavik, the Arctic region of Quebec, is an immense territory. It spans 500,000 square kilometers of wild tundra, taiga forest, scenic mountains, roaring rivers, and ice-blue lakes. Nunavik has a population of about 6000 people, most of them Inuit.
Since the Raglan site was too remote a location for a town site, a hotel-style complex was built for its employees.
Geology and Mineralization
The property stretches 70 kilometers from east to west, with a series of high-grade ore deposits scattered along its length. Significant quantities of palladium and platinum as well as cobalt are also produced.
The Raglan property lies in the eastern part of the Cape Smith fold belt, which strikes in an east-west direction across the Ungava Peninsula. This belt of rocks separates the Superior and Churchill provinces and can be correlated with other Proterozoic rocks to the southeast in the Labrador Trough and to the west of Hudson Bay in the Thompson Nickel Belt. The stratigraphy of the Cape Smith belt can be broadly subdivided into a lower sedimentary group, a central division of tholeiitic basalts and sediments (Povungnituk Group) and an upper division of komatiitic basalts (Chukotat Group). Mafic to ultramafic flows and sills are abundant in the east-central portion of the belt.
The mineralization at Raglan consists of individual lenses of sulphides associated with ultramafic flows along the contact of the Povungnituk and Chukotat groups. Nine peridotitic flow bodies containing economically significant mineralization occur over a distance of 55 kilometres. The nine areas are, from east to west: Donaldson, Boundary, West Boundary, 13-14, 5-8, Katinniq, 2-3, East Lake and Cross Lake. These ultramafic bodies contain pervasive sulphide mineralization; mainly 1% - 3% finely disseminated pyrrhotite and pentlandite.
There are three underground mines and two small open pits currently in operation. Approximately 90% of the production at Raglan comes from underground sources, with the remainder coming from open pits.
Nickel and copper are the primary metals, but it also produces significant quantities of palladium and platinum as well as cobalt.
Although the cold makes working conditions difficult, the ground is more stable because there is no water moving through fissures in the rock. With stopes of up to 30 metres wide and 105 metres long, ensuring ground stability is a high priority. All drifts are screened and all stopes are bolted.
Underground mining uses a single-pass mechanised cut-and-fill method in 8-10m wide by 5m high panels. Backfill is supplied from the open pits and underground development. As the permafrost extends below the level of mining, air temperatures underground must remain cold to maintain the stability of the permafrost. Wet drilling is used with a saline flush, as fresh water instantly freezes.
The mine uses Wagner trucks for all underground operations, including production and backfilling.
The ore from Raglan mines is crushed, ground and treated at the Raglan mill to produce a nickel-copper concentrate. The concentrate is trucked 100 kilometers to Deception Bay from where it is transported to Sudbury. After smelting in Sudbury, the smelted matte material is shipped to Xstrata's Norwegian refinery.
Milling capacity is 3,600 tonnes per day. Nickel capacity at the concentrator now stands at 26,000 tonnes of nickel-in-concentrate per year.
Environment and Community
Falconbridge (the previous owner) and the Makivik Corporation -- which oversees the political, social and economic development of the Nunavik territory -- signed an agreement in 1995 that includes profit-sharing and guaranteed contributions to the Inuit of Nunavik. In particular, those people living in the villages of Salluit and Kangiqsujuaq will benefit fully from the project's economic spin-offs, with guaranteed contributions and operational profit-sharing payments over an 18-year period made into a trust fund.
Salluit is a coastal village with many ties to Raglan. The mine is about 100 kilometers inland but there is a wider cultural divide not yet fully bridged. Perceptions of racism and general cultural differences are major concerns. These plus the constant separation from family and friends also contribute to an extremely high turnover among Inuit workers at the mine.
The Raglan Committee serves as the formal forum between Raglan and the Inuit. Three of the six members are local Inuit. The committee follows up on environmental matters and works to solve any potential problems that might arise.