Closure of Flin Flon 777 Mine is the end of an era

Lalor mine at Snow Lake
Lalor mine at Snow Lake. Photos provided by Hudbay Minerals Inc.

Manitoba town still, in the world of mining, ahead by a century

Although the first miners of Manitoba were salt miners, with those dating back to the early 1870s. The first minerals Manitobans made were the ones discovered near the  Red River in the 1830s. Tyndall Stone was the limestone of choice to build part of the now historical Lower Fort Garry, a trading post for what would one day become the department store, Hudson’s Bay.

But, by the dawn of the 20th century, new adaptations and better, more durable materials were sought after. In 1914, a local Indigenous fellow named David Collins showed a prospector named James Creighton a mineralized outcrop in the midst of what is now the flat, endless roadways of what is now rural Manitoba.

About a year later, Creighton may have been flipping through the pages of a dime novel entitled The Sunless City, a book serial of the day written by British writer and journalist J.E. Preston Muddock. 

When Creighton discovered a high grade exposure of copper that shimmered at first light, he was to have said that it was “the hole” that the prospector in the book must have climbed out of. 

At that moment he recalled the prospector’s name: Josiah Flintabbaty Flonatin, or for short, Flin Flon.

So while the city has its name rooted in the fringe pop culture, its heartbeat and fingertip is on the very edge of the mining industry.  Manitoba produces the majority of the six per cent of nickel produced in Canada and produces the seventh most raw materials by province in 2021, with  $74 million being invested toward future exploration.

Hudbay, the company which Collins and Creighton founded since that faithful discovery over a century ago has based their operations out of Flin Flon ever since. The company at times has mined copper, zinc, and gold as well throughout its over nine decades of prospecting in the community. The storied, connected history the town has with mining is something that one quite simply, has to see to believe.

Now again, as time evolves, it appears that the dawn of a new era has come. With no stone being unturned, this fall Hudbay closed the 777 in Flin Flon this past June, after production that started in 2004.

“Mining the last tonne of ore at our 777 mine in June was a hugely symbolic moment for Hudbay,”  says Rob Carter, vice president of Hudbay’s Manitoba unit. “777 was a state-of-the-art mine and a flagship for our operations.  it truly represented the pinnacle of a century of shared success for Hudbay and the City of Flin Flon.”

Flin Flon Reclamation
Flin Flon Reclamation

The decision to shut this operation down was a difficult task for the company, but with the economic reality facing the company, Carter said that in the end, the checks clearly outweighed the balances.

“After mining out the final reserves, even with the extensive drilling, no new deposits were found,” Carter says, adding that the residents of Flin Flon have shown patience and understanding through the transition process and what is the end of an era.

While HudBay now turns its focus on the future, the province still has a plethora of projects within the boundaries of Manitoba.

 Carter already knows that the future still looks bright, for both his company, and residents of Manitoba as a collective whole.

“Our Lalor mine (in Snow Lake) is our only operational  gold mine in Manitoba. Our New Britannia mill, which reopened last year, will be our only operation which is facilitating the production of gold. We’re excited by the potential of the region,” says Carter, also maintaining his optimism that the Snow Lake mine will go far beyond its scheduled 17-year shelf life.

As for the city of Flin Flon, its future will be determined, much like its namesake, by its character. The 90 year lineage of the company which started as Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting Corp. examines the future.

“We are currently in the early stages of examining the possibility of reprocessing over 90 years of tailings in Flin Flon,” says Carter, also pointing out that a financial package will provide stability to Flin Flon in what happens next.


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