Across operations, teams solve a core problem and do their level best to plan a clean exit.
Goldcorp employees everywhere demonstrate that quick thinking, proactive risk mitigation and innovative ideas make worksites Safe Enough for Our Families.
Éléonore Drills in Preventative Measures
Below a huge artificial water basin connected to La Grande hydroelectric complex, the Éléonore mine deposit in Northern Quebec, weaves throughout a vast network of underground water faults. The high-volume flow poses significant drilling risks, so the Goldcorp team had to devise an innovative plan that mitigates the risk.
“We encounter many water veins reaching pressures that can range from 200 to 900 PSI [PSI is pounds per square inch of pressure or force],” explains Christine Beausoleil, Chief Geologist at Éléonore mine. “Given such high pressures, it becomes extremely risky, even impossible, to drill. It’s just too dangerous. We had to deal with the underground water problem and find permanent solutions to continue operations under safe conditions.”
Precision drilling is necessary to collect rock core samples for metallurgical analysis. Afterwards, workers must recover the 100-pound steel tube that contains the core sample. When this retrieval process has to be performed amidst powerful water flow, there is real danger that the tube will eject at missile speed, jeopardizing the safety of crews.
Like all employees across operations, Éléonore teams are trained in preventative measures and strategies to increase safety and decrease potential incidents.
This sometimes requires innovation tailored to the specific situations at each mine site.
“We are being more proactive at identifying our significant risks, allowing us to establish critical controls or in some cases, complete risk elimination,” says Paul Farrow, Goldcorp Senior Vice President, People and Safety.
Éléonore collaborated with drill manufacturer Machines Roger Internationales (MRI) to design a solution to the water pressure problem. Together, they invented a custom brake tube that controls ejection velocity despite extreme water pressure. The brake tube incorporates a clamping device, or ‘jaws’, that easily fits over the drill rod and tightens securely, exerting the pressure necessary to hold the tube in place and prevent volatile ejection. Like most great ideas, it’s simple yet very effective and reliable.
“Together with MRI, we created a new tool within four months,” Beausoleil says. “Then we established training, policies and procedures for safe use. We can now drill safely through water veins that were previously impassable, achieving our safe drilling objectives.”
Since implementing this clever device, which only takes minutes to install and utilize, incidents related to tube ejections have been eliminated.
Can-Do Attitude at Cerro Negro and Musselwhite
Innovative safety technology is spreading across the industry and two Goldcorp mines are at the forefront. ‘Tin can manways’ are tubular shafts that create a covered passageway between levels of an underground mine to protect against falling debris and air pressure changes as employees ascend and descend during the course of work. Manways must be custom-made to match the slopes and tiers of each site.
At Musselwhite mine in Ontario, Canada, the original manways were constructed in the traditional method using wood. Naturally, over time the wood warped, splintered and broke down due to wear and tear and manways had to be replaced and reconstructed regularly to prevent injury.
Following failure of one of the original manways, urgent necessity fostered invention. Teams engineered a way to bolt together ‘cans’ of reinforced steel to form seamless, virtually-indestructible manways for miners to move through safely and smoothly. But installation posed other challenges due to hard-rock underground. The feat required sourcing and applying remote-operated drilling technology.
Successful implementation and overall innovation won the Musselwhite team a Goldcorp 2014 Global Excellence Award. But the real win is that manways have since remained incident-free.
Meanwhile at Cerro Negro mine in the south of Santa Cruz province, Argentina, employees were busy conceiving ways to improve the safety and efficiency of emergency evacuation procedures. In collaboration with Argentine engineering firm Geopetrol Industrial SRL, a Subterra GP-30 steel casing system was designed to create and link a series of integrated evacuation shafts.
Mine Supervisor José Orellana says “The casing system connects the different levels of the Eureka mine (which is the first producing vein at Cerro Negro) to the surface in a completely standardized way. This makes for a fast and safe evacuation, if necessary.”
The system at Cerro Negro offers real-time monitoring of all the corresponding sensors, thus preventing accidents caused by possible human error, and was granted the Bureau Veritas certification for complying with the highest quality and safety standards. Bureau Veritas is an international leader in testing, inspection and certification services and assures the safety and performance of equipment. Inspection, measurements and testing ensure mechanical solutions adopted are in compliance with local regulations.