by Rachel Hunter
The operation at Empire State Mines in Fowler is now being restructured with a near-term focus on underground development as well as continued near-mine and district exploration.
Empire State Mines (ESM) is owned by Titan Mining Corporation, an Augusta Group company which produces zinc concentrate. ESM is a group of zinc mines which started production in the early 1900s. The announcement detailing the optimization strategy at ESM was made on Thursday, February 21.
The mine will lower its throughput while focusing on development. A revised mine plan, incorporating the #2D zone and the higher-grade New Fold zone in the #4 mine, is expected to be completed in mid-2019.
In order to optimize cash flow and productivity at the operation, the workforce is being reduced, and a smaller group of miners retained to focus on production and development. A total of 108 positions (23 permanent, 85 temporary) are impacted by layoffs. A core group of 87 employees will be retained.
Donald Taylor, Chief Executive Officer of Titan, said, “During the ramp up at ESM, we have faced a number of challenges and, with our focus on production, we have fallen behind on mine rehabilitation and development. The changes being implemented will address the shortfall of producing stopes and faces with the goal of lowering our costs and better positioning the mine for future success. In order to optimize cash flow and productivity at ESM, we are reducing our workforce, but we expect to benefit from greater efficiencies associated with a smaller group of miners focused on production and development. With these changes, we expect to achieve balanced mine development while our exploration group continues its program targeting large, high-grade deposits in the district.”
As expected, in the fourth quarter of 2018, production at ESM was impacted by the transition from contractor-mining to owner-mining and a shift from the planned stopes to a lower-grade section of the mine. Mill throughput was 48,302 tons, or 525 tons per day, and milled grade was 6.2% zinc. In January 2019, the average daily mill throughput improved by 16%, and milled grade by 26%, from the prior quarter.
Richard Warke, Executive Chairman, stated, “Our team is working hard to secure a strong future for the mine and the community. Rightsizing is a hard decision, but it is also the right decision. We remain confident in the potential of this prolific district and continue to invest in both exploration and development at ESM.” As previously announced, a company controlled by Titan’s Executive Chairman entered into a second ranking secured credit facility of up to US$18.7 million, maturing in December 2020.
Town of Fowler Supervisor Michael Cappellino said he was surprised initially with the announcement last Thursday morning, and set out to ensure that ESM was not closing.
“That is one of the first things that they said, “We are not closing,” Supervisor Cappellino said. “I got a text early in the morning, and so I immediately emailed (Human Resources Director Clara Cummings of Gouverneur) at work, and she called me about an hour later and explained to me what was happening. And then she did send me an email as well confirming what they had done… I am thinking that it is a temporary setback, and that they will bring those people – or at least some of those people – back in the near future.”
For more info on ESM, visit titanminingcorp.com.