In this series, we introduce you to the winners of Goldcorp’s Global Excellence Awards 2019.  The Awards were launched in 2014 and are held every year to celebrate excellence and recognize achievements and successes made by individuals and teams across our organization who are thinking innovatively, finding ways to improve our business and supporting our vision of Together, Creating Sustainable Value.

Mine hoists are responsible for the safe daily transport of people and material underground and need to be 100 percent  reliable. When the motor generators on Red Lake Gold Mine’s (RLGM) main production hoist at the Balmer complex needed to be replaced last year, the project required meticulous scoping, planning, communication and coordination by all departments to minimize downtime and ensure safe installation. The Balmer hoist upgrade was carried out with military precision earning the RLGM team the winning submission for Health and Safety in the Workplace at Goldcorp’s recent Global Excellence Awards.

RLGM’s main production hoist, built in the 1960s, had an antiquated DC motor generator with obsolete drives and controls.  The reliability of the system was declining. Sourcing parts for the vintage equipment was becoming increasingly difficult, along with the daunting task of melding new and ever-evolving hoisting technology with older equipment.

“The weekly hoist preventative maintenance was taking upwards of nine hours per week,” recalled Kyle Borup, Electrical General Forman.  “It seemed questionable whether the hoist would operate without interruption until the next scheduled maintenance.”

The configuration of this hoist, it’s aging condition, and continued downtime became a safety concern. Change was necessary and after weighing various options, a decision was made in 2017 to replace all the critical hoist components.

The maintenance team consulted with other departments and developed a plan to change the hoist motors, drives, controls and all related parts during a 12-day shutdown of the hoist which was scheduled for June/July of 2018.

The motor generator replacement involved thousands of hours of planning prior to execution.  To minimize production downtime, the team planned to complete as much pre-work as possible during normally scheduled weekly preventative maintenance.  Contractors were hired to complete much of the up-front work. This pre-work involved scheduling short power outages, high-voltage switchgear and transformer installations, building a drive room (inside the hoist room), installation and pre-commissioning of the drives. “This pre-work allowed us to get a good jump on the project,” stated Borup.

The scheduled 12-day maintenance shutdown of the hoist involved close collaboration throughout the mine to ensure that safe production targets were not impacted.  This was accomplished by closely aligning production targets and maintenance planning, vacation scheduling and capitalizing on other mining projects on surface and underground.

Safety was the utmost consideration.  Before the shutdown started, Mike Schollie, Maintenance Manager, Kyle Borup and Mike Botten personally hosted daily cross-over safety meetings of the day and night shift at 5 a.m. and 5 p.m. to ensure everyone understood the project parameters and risks. Potential hazards were identified, and clear lines of communication established with everyone involved.

To complete the upgrade in a timely manner, crews were required to work 12-hour shifts. People were asked to change shifts and work overtime.  “The upgrade was going to get underway in the middle of summer when the weather was nice, so we needed everyone to be focussed on the task at hand.  Daily communication was the key.  If someone needed a break, we accommodated them as required.  We couldn’t afford to have someone on the project if they were not 100% fit for work.”

The shutdown got underway on June 29 to change the hoist motors, drives controls and all related parts requiring nearly 6,000 person hours to complete the upgrade.  Taking advantage of this down time, other critical jobs such as the ore and waste bin chute, underground ramp rehab and 30-tonne rock truck overhaul were all completed without an accident or incident.

The hoist upgrade was completed on July 10 – one day early and on budget.

After the hoist was commissioned, the manufacturer’s tech support remained on site for a full week to train operators on the hoist’s new features and functionality.  “We had operators come in outside their regular schedules to receive the property training to ensure a safe transition.”

The Balmer hoist upgrade was a huge undertaking for RLGM which helped improve the operation of the mine.  “As proud as we are to have completed this project on time and on budget, our greatest accomplishment was completing it safely,” said Borup. “Sending every worker home to their family at the end of their shift the same way they came to work that day is what was most important to us.”

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