Canadian mining company Equinox Gold has started ore processing at its Greenstone Project in Ontario, marking a significant step towards gold production.

The Greenstone Project, which is being developed as a 60/40 partnership between Equinox Gold and Orion Mine Finance Group, is poised to become one of Canada’s largest gold mines.

The project is anticipated to yield around 400,000oz of gold annually for the initial five years and more than five million ounces throughout its 14-year mine life.

The commissioning phase of the plant started earlier this year, focusing first on the crushing circuit and ore storage dome.

Subsequently, the high-pressure grinding rolls (HPGR), ball mill, thickener and leach tanks were brought online.

During the last week of March, flocculant and lime were incorporated into the system, and a comprehensive water test was conducted in the first week of April.

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On 6 April, ore was introduced into the grinding circuit, with the inaugural gold pour scheduled for May.

To date, more than 1.5 million tonnes (t) of ore have been amassed and 70,000t of low-grade ore has been pre-crushed to facilitate the early stages of commissioning.

As production escalates, progressively higher-grade ore will be processed, aiming for a daily throughput of 27,000t.

The project is on track to reach commercial production by Q3 2024.

Equinox Gold president and CEO Greg Smith said: “Following 2.5 years of construction, Greenstone is on schedule to commence gold production in the first half of the year, as planned.

“This is a significant achievement and a testament to the experience of the Greenstone team. Greenstone is a world-class asset, and reaching production will be a pivotal milestone for Equinox Gold.

“Once operating at full capacity, Greenstone will be our largest and lowest-cost mine. We look forward to first gold in May and continuing to advance the project to commercial production.”