Fosterville: Victoria’s Golden Eagle

(Image source: Agnico Eagle) Ariel view of Fosterville gold mine operations.
(Image source: Agnico Eagle) Ariel view of Fosterville gold mine operations.

With 2023 production totalling 277,694oz, Agnico Eagle Mines’ Fosterville mine in Victoria is the largest gold producer in the state.

Previously owned by Kirkland Lake Gold, Angico acquired Fosterville in February 2022 following the completion of the merger between the two companies.

Spanning an area of 1400km2, Fosterville hosts numerous brownfield and greenfield exploration targets. Exploration programs to date have traced only 20km of potential gold bearing structures, highlighting untapped exploration potential.

Notably, the presence of visible gold becomes increasingly significant at depth and is observed more frequently below a depth of 800m within the Lower Phoenix and Harrier gold systems.

History of Operations

Gold was first discovered at Fosterville in 1894 with operations continuing until 1903 where the mine lay dormant until 1988. Between 1988 and 2001, 240oz of gold was poured from heap leaching ore derived from shallow oxide open pits.

In 2015, the Eagle Zone was discovered after high-grade visible gold mineralisation was intersected at depth, and a year later in 2016, the ultra-high-grade Swan Zone was discovered. The discovery of the Swan Zone transformed Fosterville into one of the world’s richest gold mines.

The discovery of these zones significantly improved the overall mineral reserve grade and production profile with exploration work in 2016 finding similar visible gold mineralisation in the Harrier Zone.

In 2021, an $80.5m exploration program was undertaken, including the development of a twin exploration drive from the Fosterville mine to Robbins Hill. This work interested high grade quartz with visible gold 500m down-plunge from the Swan Zone.

Current Operations

(Image source: Agnico Eagle) Scott Perdon, Senior Technician.
(Image source: Agnico Eagle) Scott Perdon, Senior Technician.

Current mining activities are focused on the Central, Phoenix and Harrier underground ore zones with underground mining undertaken using a conventional fleet including jumbos, production drills, loaders, trucks and ancillary equipment.

In 2023, 84,310m of exploration drilling, across 309 holes, was undertaken, comprising of 68,687m of underground drilling and 15,623m of surface drilling.

This drilling encountered high grade gold and demonstrated the potential for several zones at Phoenix and Robbins Hill to provide additional mineral resources and mineral reserves. Up to 301.4g/t gold was intersected at Robbins Hill, while up to 120g/t gold was intersected at Phoenix.

Once received, ore is processed at the Fosterville mill which has the capacity of 2275t per day. First, the ore is crushed and grinded then followed by flotation, bacterial oxidation and carbon-in-leach circuits.

Production began in April 2005 with the one millionth ounce of gold produced in December 2015. In March 2023, Fosterville produced its four millionth ounce of gold.

Future Work

Throughout 2024, Agnico expects to carry out 38,700m of drilling with a focus on the extensions of the mineral reserves and mineral resources at Lower Phoenix and Robbins Hill. A further 36,500m of underground and surface exploration drilling has been planned to test new geological targets.

Additionally, preparation is underway for surface exploration programs to identify favourable structural environments with folding and faulting similar to the fault that hosts the Swan Zone. Drilling will then be undertaken on any new prospective targets.

Based on current and historical exploration as well as the results received to date, Agnico Eagle’s long-term goal for Fosterville is to establish the mine as a long-line asset through the successful replacement of mineral reserves.

With a mine life up until 2031, the company believes the potential exists to discover further high-grade zones that could potentially support high production levels.

(Image source: Agnico Eagle) Ariel view of the Ellesmere Pit and rehabilitated McCormick Waste Rock Dump.
(Image source: Agnico Eagle) Ariel view of the Ellesmere Pit and rehabilitated McCormick Waste Rock Dump.

Fosterville Community Grants Program

2024 marks the 19th anniversary of the Fosterville community grants program with 258 community groups awarded a total of $500,000 since then.

Grants of up to $5000 are available to eligible applicants to support a wide range of community group or activities that benefit the communities surrounding the Fosterville mine.

This grants program aims to support the projects that provide specific sustainable outcomes which have long lasting benefits to the wider community.

Previous recipients include the Junortoun Fire Brigade, Eaglehawk North Primary School, Heathcote SES and the Ironbark Tennis Club.