Technology drives efficiency, value and sustainability for Anaconda Mining
For a gold mining business, the location and jurisdiction of your portfolio is key towards enabling any form of real growth. For Anaconda Mining, a TSX-listed gold mining, exploration and development company, that key location is Canada: namely, the highly prospective Atlantic Canadian jurisdictions of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. Anaconda currently operates the Point Rousse and Tilt Cove Projects located in the Baie Verte Mining District in Newfoundland, comprised of the Pine Cove and Stog’er Tight open pit mines, the fully-permitted Pine Cove Mill, a seven-million-tonne inpit tailings facility, the Argyle deposit, and approximately 9,150 hectares of prospective gold-bearing property. The company is also developing the recently acquired Goldboro Gold Project in Nova Scotia, a high-grade Mineral Resource. Anaconda sees real potential in growing the Goldboro deposit and developing the project into the next gold mine in Nova Scotia.
“The goal for Anaconda Mining is to become an intermediate producer,” says Gordana Slepcev, Chief Operating Officer (COO) at Anaconda. “For us, we look to grow our company and our existing projects significantly over the next three to five years.”
As Slepcev notes, developing the company’s current project portfolio will establish a foundation in which Anaconda can grow and transition into an intermediate producer. The company is currently drilling and expanding its existing resources across its portfolio, with the recent Goldboro acquisition and Argyle deposit possessing huge potential for Anaconda. Slepcev feels that the ultimate enabler of growth lies within people and the way in which the organization empowers them. “It’s a really great company to work for,” she says. “There is a strong culture and we are an extremely closely-knit team where each and every person is passionate about what they do.”
The mining industry by its very nature is often one that relies on third-party support and bringing expertise into the business to develop and train the current workforce. All around the world, there are challenges of skills shortages and, in some cases, a lack of interest in working in the sector. Where Anaconda stands tall is in its ability to involve its staff from the top down in as much strategic conversation as possible, steering the company in the right direction by ensuring that every member of staff feels that they are a key part of this growth journey. Slepcev herself is a fine example of this, having been with Anaconda for over five years. She initially joined the business as Manager of Technical Services back in 2013, before being promoted to the position of COO in 2017.
“As a company, we are continuously looking to promote from within. I feel that everyone has their heart in the business. If you have good, hard-working people who care about what they do, why would you bring someone else in? It really is the people that make the difference for Anaconda. They are the ones who drive down costs, increase production rates and develop our projects into what they are. It is all because they take that extra step. They take care and they have great pride in what they do,” says Slepcev.
In the mining industry, it is imperative for a company to understand and obtain its social license to operate. Partnering with and establishing key relationships with local governments, regulatory bodies and indeed local communities can make or break any operation before boots hit the ground and for Anaconda Mining, this is something it invests in heavily. Environmental sustainability is at the very heart of its LEAN and Green Vision Statement which is to be an environmental leader with a primary focus on proven, innovative green initiatives that contribute to the sustainability of the environment.
Anaconda works closely with its employees and contractors to ensure that they are committed to and working towards this vision. This includes training programmes, regular communication between all areas of the business and the development, design and operation of environmentally sound facilities across all of its projects. “Most of our people work within the local communities and live within the local communities,” says Slepcev. “As a good corporate citizen, Anaconda continuously proves that it is very environmentally conscious in everything that it does to show that it takes these issues seriously and does its very best to make mining sustainable.”
Slepcev attributes this commitment to sustainability and the successes it has and will continue to achieve in this space back to its approach to its people. “Aligning all the goals from the top down to anybody in the company, making sure all of the people are heard. They've been developed. They've been trained and given opportunities to do more for the company.”
As the company looks to grow, to develop its projects and to discover new ones, it does so with the caveat that the industry is cyclical. Anaconda can achieve all the success in the world in its current and future portfolio, but were the industry to suffer an extreme downturn in commodity prices then it could completely undermine all the efforts and hard work that it has put in over the last decade. How a company survives this is by operating smartly and focusing on key areas that, through sound development, will stand against any downturn or financial concern. Slepcev believes that Anaconda is more than capable of weathering any storm through its focus on its current projects, people and key partnerships it has established with local universities and communities.
The company’s Point Rousse and Pine Cove projects in particular, are a testament to the company’s approach to partnerships and how they provide true value.
“Since the day one at Point Rousse project we have been contracting our mining to G.J. Baileys and drill and blast services to Nfld. Hard-Rok Inc.,” says Slepcev. “The first blast at Pine Cove was in 2007 and since then more than 6,500,000 cubic metres have been drilled & blasted, over 700,000m of linear drilling completed and over 5,000,000 kg of explosives used to break the rock. On average we utilize two to three drills on site full time, as well as full time blaster and technical support both from Nfld. Hard-Rok and Dyno Nobel with all the latest in blasting and blast monitoring technology.”
Through this approach, Anaconda has been able to embrace new technologies and greater innovation. The company has established an in-house continuing education system called Anaconda University (AU). This innovative and comprehensive corporate university training system was created to fully engage and develop employees while aligning their learning to the company’s strategic objectives. This is achieved through a platform to support innovation and the development of new ideas, provide motivation to the workforce, and attract and retain high quality talent.
“We’ve always been innovative,” says Slepcev. “Through our culture, we’ve been able to better embrace and implement innovation and safety programs. For the first time in our company’s history we have created a position of the VP of Innovation, so we can focus on it full time. We have achieved significant mining dilution reduction using technologies such as Blast Monitoring Technologies (BMT) as well as GPS solutions in our shovels and equipment. We’ve also been using drones for a number of years in our development planning processes.”
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Anaconda has also been working on a number of major projects with Memorial University, College of the North Atlantic and the Canadian government including ACOA (Atlantic Canada Opportunity Agency), NRC-IRAP (National Research Council Industrial Research Assistance Program and the RDC (Research and Development Corporation). One of the most significant R&D projects within this partnership has been a $3.5mn initiative to commercialize a technology to economically mine underground single, narrow mineralized veins.
For Slepcev, in a sector that has historically been slow to embrace technology and innovation, it is important that however and wherever the company invests in technology it does so with its core values in mind. “For us, it’s about trying to maximize production, bring greater value and efficiency to the business and importantly, decrease our environmental footprint,” she says.
As the company continues along its growth journey, Slepcev can look back over the company’s 10 successful years in operation. For her, this is important as the company can celebrate a number of successes and key lessons it has learned along the way, particularly in its relationships with stakeholders, the support it receives from communities and First Nations and the overall pride and sense of community its employees bring to work each day. As Anaconda looks to further the Goldboro project and future potential projects this togetherness will only continue to grow alongside the company.
“We're currently focused on Atlantic Canada and we will grow our portfolio through either exploration or mergers and acquisitions. Our goal is that within five years, we grow to have a multi-million-ounce portfolio and be producing approximately 100,000 ounces annually in a geographically concentrated area,” says Slepcev.
“We go through conversations and open up dialogues with every part of the business to make sure everything’s going well. As we grow, our success will come from our drive to be open, to listen, and to enable and empower everyone in our business.”