Since 2011’s groundbreaking agreement with the Cree Nation of Wemindji to co-develop and operate the Éléonore mine, Goldcorp’s community commitments are coming to life through job creation, business start-ups, environmental protection and operational excellence.
Goldcorp is instituting industry-leading systems and practices to sustain local benefits and productivity at Éléonore. The site holds gold reserves of three million ounces, and projects gold production of 600,000 ounces annually over 15-20 years.
About 950 workers are constructing the main building, water treatment plant, administration facility, garage and warehouse. Additional infrastructure workers bring the total to 1,300 to 1,500. The exploration shaft is complete and the ramp that brings the ore to the surface, as well as the production shaft, will be done by year end. A whole new skilled labour force must also be ready.
“There is a huge amount of recruitment and training going on, both on-site and off-site, so that we can get ready for the commissioning and the operation of Éléonore mine,” says Mine General Manager Guy Belleau. “It is an intense process but it gives us lots of joy. We promised we would be pouring gold in the last quarter of this year and I am confident that is what we will be doing.”
Another promise Goldcorp is keeping is to positively impact the region socially and economically. In addition to employing community members, mine equipment and services are locally sourced when possible. Air Creebec handles most personnel transport, BCC Construction has done much of the building and Tawich Development Corporation, the economic arm of the local Cree Nation, has been a partner since the project began.
Tawich has also created a commercial laundry to serve mine operations and local residents. It has become a model for other Indigenous entrepreneurs, says Danny Tomatuk, President of Tawich. “We are setting the bar for anyone who wants to do business in this area. There’s
a lot of opportunity for the Cree in the future for new development and we are grateful to have Goldcorp as partners today.”
Goldcorp is looking to provide more job opportunities to the Cree nation of Wemindji by sourcing necessities such as health and safety equipment, drill bit sharpening services and manufacturing of core boxes. Currently there are some 400 Cree workers on the site either working directly for Goldcorp or for contractors.
Éléonore is a state-of-the-art operation with safety at the forefront and Operating for Excellence (O4E) processes for continuous improvement. To date, over 45 O4E projects pertaining to aviation, underground development, surface transportation, fuel efficiency, air quality and propane efficiency have been completed. All O4E initiatives are driven by Goldcorp’s six pillars – growing people, safety, partnerships, production, reserves and margins – with safety so entrenched in each that the site’s safety record has improved by 20% in every year since the project started.
Éléonore’s SmartEXEC ventilation-on-demand (VOD) system O4E project recently won recognition at the Global Excellence Awards held in June 2014. While traditional ventilation systems run continuously and therefore consume vast amounts of energy, the VOD system has automated fans that power on only as needed.
Wi-Fi technology worn by all underground employees and installed on all underground equipment allows tracking of real-time locations and measures air quality. The VOD system regulates the right amount of ventilation in all the right areas for optimum working conditions.
The results are lower energy consumption and overall operating costs, while increasing underground air quality. The first two months
after installation saved 644,000 litres of propane worth $632,000 and demonstrably improved air flow. Annual savings are estimated at $1.6 to $2.5 million over conventional ventilation systems.
Technology and Talent
“We are building one of the best gold mines in the country, if not the world,” says Belleau. “It is going to have a strong emphasis on technology and world-class equipment…People want to join Goldcorp for its reputation and the quality of the people they know they will be working with here.”
Top talent from around the globe is applying at Éléonore. Almost 9,000 resumes have been submitted in hopes of working with Goldcorp’s cutting-edge innovation and dedication to responsible mining, says Belleau. “That is part of our strategic plan: to recruit and retain the best people there are in the industry and give them best-in-class equipment to work with and the best-in-class training in its use – but that all starts with a best-in-class camp!”
“We are on the last stretch now. I can smell the gold.”- Guy Belleau, Mine General Manager, Éléonore
He is referring to Éléonore’s deluxe facilities. The camp is in fact a micro-community with modern living conveniences, including accommodations with ensuite bathrooms, double beds, flat screen TVs, on-demand movies and Wi-Fi. Even the cafeteria is high-tech, with a target of generating zero waste as part of Goldcorp’s environmental and O4E commitment.
“We are always trying to do things better and smarter,” says Belleau. “Even though we think we are doing well in a particular area we are always raising the bar and asking our people how we can do it better.”