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Huckleberry Mine takes the bull by the horns

The mill at Huckleberry Mine is up-and running after a break down stopped its work for over a month.
Jamie Delgado stands in front of the very active Huckleberry Mine.

The mill at Huckleberry Mine is up-and running after a break down stopped its work for over a month.

"We've found a short-term solution through our various consultants and milling experts," said Randall Thompson, vice-president of operations at Huckleberry Mines.

"It's a temporary solution until September, when we get a new gear onsite and installed in the mill."

The SAG mill at Huckleberry Mines was shut down from Feb. 26 to April 5 with a breakdown involving the bull gear — a gear involved in grinding large pieces of ore into smaller pieces.

Ordering a bull gear takes four to six months, and Thompson said the company hopes this temporary solution will keep the mill running until that process is complete in September.

"We're continuing to stay positive that this solution will provide full operating until September, however there is elevated risk in terms of its efficiency. It's not the same conditions that we expect for operation, so we're managing it very closely with new operational parameters (restrictions)," he said.

While the mill was shut down, mill employees were put to work on upgrades and maintenance projects as well as helping find a temporary solution for the broken gear.

"The focus has been to get the mill back to 100 per cent operational, which we've accomplished ...  we did a lot of strategizing about how to best keep everybody employed and ensure the delivery of our mine plan for this year," Thompson said.

"Huckleberry has been operating for 15 years, employing people in the region, and we want to continue to do that and work closely with our employees in terms of developing strategies as we move forward."

"These are challenging times for our industry, with market conditions and increased rates in fuel and hydro. We're always looking for opportunities for improvement, and you never know what the future will bring," he said.

"I can't emphasize enough the appreciation that we have of all the work and the patience that everybody has demonstrated, that includes Huckleberry staff. We really want to thank the employees."

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