Natural gas conversion is the latest sustainability initiative at Goldcorp

Red Lake Gold Mines is making final preparations to start up a newly constructed natural gas line that will not only benefit production at its operations, but people in nearby communities and the planet.

The conversion to natural gas at Goldcorp’s Red Lake operations in northern Ontario was made official with a “Red Lake Flame Lighting” ceremony hosted by Union Gas yesterday. Red Lake Gold Mines employees were on hand to celebrate the switch to greener, cleaner natural gas, alongside the Mayor of Red Lake and representatives from the provincial and federal government and Union Gas.

The event celebrates the partnership between Goldcorp, Union Gas and all three levels of government in helping to create, finance and construct the 43-kilometre pipeline that was built from a historic northern Ontario mine site along Highway 105 into the Red Lake region. Natural gas will become the key energy source for Red Lake Gold Mines, and will also be accessible to approximately 5,000 people living in communities around the mining operations, as well as local businesses. 

“It’s a great project for Goldcorp and the community is very excited about it,” says Mark Vermette, Community Relations Superintendent at Goldcorp’s Red Lake Gold Mines.  “It’s another sustainability project that involves the community in which we operate.” 

The team at Red Lake Gold Mines started looking into the natural gas option in late 2009, after realizing that the current hydro capacity could not fully support production growth. Capacity would be further constrained with the development of the nearby Cochenour project, scheduled to begin production in early 2014, and may also limit or delay Goldcorp’s future mine growth. “We wanted to be proactive and ensure alternative forms of energy were available,” says Curtis Pedwell, Maintenance Manager at Red Lake Gold Mines. 

Diesel was one option, but the Company felt it was not cost effective or environmentally friendly. Pedwell’s team recalled there was a capped natural gas well at the old Griffith Mine site located a few dozen kilometres away, so they began looking at ways to tap it as a new source for their operations.

A pre-feasibility study analyzed the cost of installing a pipeline in the ground along the highway into Red Lake, measured the potential of this renewed power source and determined the best way to convert existing propane-heating loads to natural gas. The study showed the move would not only pay for itself in five years, but could potentially cogenerate up to 30 megawatts of additional power if required.  

“We quickly realized that natural gas for cogeneration would be efficient and environmentally friendly,” Pedwell says. “It also helps to secure any future energy demands that we may face as we continue to grow our operations. Following months of negotiations with representatives from the municipal, provincial and federal governments, Goldcorp championed the investment to bring natural gas to Red Lake Gold Mines as well as the homes and businesses in the surrounding region.“

The biggest impact from an environmental standpoint is the majority of the homeowners in the area heat their homes with fuel oil. The impact of conversion alone is a reduction of 250,000 to 350,000 tonnes of carbon emissions being displaced over the life of the project,” Pedwell says.  

“Allowing our employees and the community here in Red Lake to benefit from clean, low-cost energy was at the forefront of our decision to proceed with this project.”



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