North American Palladium Ltd. ("NAP" or the "Company") is pleased to announce that it has begun hoisting material through the new shaft at its Lac des Iles ("LDI") palladium mine in northern Ontario. The production, service and auxiliary hoists are now fully operational and the skipping system has been successfully tested with full loads of material.
The complete commissioning of the shaft ore handling system, including the crusher and loading pocket, is on target for completion later in October, following which production is expected to be predominately transitioned from ramp to shaft haulage. This will effectively mark the completion of the mine's Phase I expansion, enabling NAP to benefit from increased production at a reduced cash cost per ounce.
The Company maintains its target of increasing its underground mining production rate to over 3,000 tonnes per day from the underground Offset Zone during the fourth quarter, with plans to further increase the daily mining rate in 2014.
"The first skip of our new production shaft marks a very significant milestone for North American Palladium, positioning the Company for improved operating margins and a return to profitability in 2014," said Phil du Toit, NAP's President and Chief Executive Officer. "On behalf of the Company, I wish to thank all of our employees and contractors for their dedication and hard work during the challenging transition period, and express my appreciation to our investors whose financial support made this milestone possible."
The new production shaft is approximately 825 metres deep with a maximum hoisting capacity of 8,000 tonnes per day which will eliminate the production bottleneck currently imposed by the long truck haulage system. It is 6 metres in diameter and concrete-lined, with a conventional back leg headframe equipped with a production hoist, a service hoist, and an auxiliary hoist.
The Company also announced it is deferring Phase II of the shaft expansion at depth. Preliminary indications from management's ongoing review of its development strategy suggest that lower cost opportunities may be available for exploitation, allowing NAP to defer Phase II capital spending, while still enabling LDI to achieve production growth of up to 250,000 ounces by 2015.
The Company plans to provide an update on its shaft commissioning, development prospects, and growth opportunities at its Investor Day to be held later today at 12:00 pm EST in Toronto. A live and archived webcast of the event will be available at NAP's website at www.nap.com.
About North American Palladium
NAP is an established precious metals producer that has been operating its Lac des Iles mine ("LDI") located in Ontario, Canada since 1993. LDI is one of only two primary producers of palladium in the world, and is currently undergoing a major expansion to increase production and reduce cash costs per ounce. The Company's shares trade on the NYSE MKT under the symbol PAL and on the TSX under the symbol PDL.