Musselwhite Mine on track to improve productivity
$90 million material handling project and new Thunder Bay office will lower costs
Goldcorp is executing on a roadmap to increase production and decrease costs at its Musselwhite Mine, 480 kilometres north of Thunder Bay in northwestern Ontario.
Topping the list of initiatives underway is the construction of an 800-metre raisebored winz to transport ore from mine workings 1,000 metres underground to a straightaway ramp providing access to a crusher at the mine’s 460-metre level.
The $90 million material handling project was one of two capital projects approved by Goldcorp’s board of directors in 2016.
“Musselwhite is a ramp access mine with an orebody that trends north and dips at a 30-degree angle, so we’re getting further and further away from our portal and our infrastructure,” explained mine manager Peter Gula.
Currently, Musselwhite has a fleet of 17 haul trucks. Ore is transported a distance of 7.5 kilometres from mine workings to the crusher – a one hour round trip. Once the new conveyance is completed, only eight to 10 trucks will be required and the distance from the top of the winz to the crusher will be a more manageable three kilometres. From the crusher, ore is transported a distance of three kilometres to surface via a conveyor system in a dedicated ramp.
“The main benefit is a big reduction in ventilation demand,” said Musselwhite mine manager Peter Gula. “Taking out nine or 10 trucks equates to a half million CFM. Here at Musselwhite, we’re limited as far as power is concerned, so it’s a huge advantage to us to reduce the load on the grid. Secondly, it shortens our haulage, increases our productivity and allows us to operate at a lower cost, so we can explore, find more ore and go further.”
The 5.5-metre diameter winz is being built by Redpath and is scheduled for completion in Q1 2019 with commissioning shortly thereafter..
“In another 20 years, we’ll be in the exact same position we’re in today in terms of hauling distance. Instead of hauling to a crusher, we’ll be hauling to a winz about an hour away, so should our exploration firm up, we’ll have to look at some other alternatives.”
Thunder Bay office
Management has also embarked on an initiative to relocate administrative and other employees to a new office in Thunder Bay.
Musselwhite staff are flown in from Thunder Bay on a Musselwhite-owned aircraft and accommodated onsite at considerable expense.
“We’ve always had an office in Thunder Bay for people who couldn’t get to site or had to attend a meeting, but on April 15th we moved to a nicer, bigger office,” said Gula. “We’ll have full-time employees there, including non-production personnel, accounts payable, purchasing officers and admin assistants who don’t need to be onsite.”
Musselwhite production employees work a two-week on, two-week off schedule and make their way to Thunder Bay from as far away as Sudbury and Elliot Lake, but non-production employees typically work a four day on, three day off schedule and live in the Thunder Bay area. By working remotely in Thunder Bay, they can work a normal Monday to Friday schedule.
“There’s a huge cost benefit (in reduced air travel),” said Gula. “It also lightens our load at the camp. Musselwhite has been around for 20 years, so we probably have to look at doing some infrastructure upgrades, and I didn’t want to do anything until we got the site to the right number of people who need to be there. The more people we have who can live and work in Thunder Bay, the more cost-effective it is for us.
“In our first wave, we’ll have 15 people in Thunder Bay, but I see some engineering and geology staff in our Thunder Bay office at some point.
“We have two teleremote operator stations from Hard Line Solutions at the mine running 10-yard scoops from surface.
Eventually, we can have that set up from Thunder Bay as well. We have two chairs that can run up to six scoops. We’ve seen some fantastic results from that.”
Mucking can commence immediately after a blast, so when the crews underground return for the next round, they have a clean face, explained Gula. Teleremote technology saves load-haul-dump operators from making the 10 to 11 kilometre trip from the portal to the mine workings and the return trip to surface at the end of their shift. If they’re in Thunder Bay, it will also save them from having to fly in and out to the mine.
Further savings in ventilation costs are also in the works as Musselwhite transitions to battery powered equipment. The mine currently has a battery-powered MacLean bolter and two battery-powered personnel carriers – a Minecat from Industrial Fabrication in Sudbury and a Papa Bravo from Saskatoon-based Prairie Machine & Parts.
“We also purchased a couple 16-passenger buses from Minecat,” said Gula. “The next phase will be to look at battery-power for those as well. The technology is advancing really fast. We’ll look at trucks, too, down the road.”
Musselwhite produced 261,000 ounces of gold in 2016, but the goal is to get production up to 300,000 ounces, said Gula.