Welcome to the Mine of the Future
Brent Bergeron, Executive Vice President, Corporate Affairs and Sustainability, Goldcorp
When you think about environmentally-progressive industries, does mining come to mind? The technologies and methodologies of our sector may not have changed significantly over the past century, but the advancements we are making in the area of sustainability may surprise you.
Mining companies are re-thinking their operations throughout the entire mining life cycle to get the right information to the right people at the right time through big data analysis, the Internet of Things and by using artificial intelligence to boost productivity; to improve safety; and to operate in a more environmentally sustainable manner.
First, let us look at the big picture – and a big challenge facing all of us. As a global phenomenon, climate change requires a coordinated approach in which government and private enterprise work together to achieve a common goal. That is why Goldcorp is a proud signatory of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), of which global warming mitigation is a central facet. These ambitious goals provide a framework for government and industry to achieve measurable targets by the year 2030.
A key SDG calls for urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. Mining is energy-intensive, however there is great potential in our industry to invest in energy efficiency measures, incorporate renewable energy into our power supply and reduce our carbon footprint.
Goldcorp’s Energy Stewardship Strategy ensures that we continue taking progressive steps to manage our energy use and minimize greenhouse gas emissions. As just one example, we have completed a feasibility study for building a wind farm to sustainably power our Cerro Negro mine in Argentina. Company-wide, our emissions have been trending downward on a per-ounce or intensity basis since 2013. We have done that, in part, by reducing our reliance on diesel – which takes me to an exciting development at one of our newest projects.
Borden Goes Electric
At Goldcorp, we believe the days of diesel use for underground mining equipment are numbered. The announcement of our plan to develop an all-electric site at our Borden mine in Ontario, Canada, was groundbreaking in the industry, but we see it as a logical way to significantly reduce the mine’s environmental footprint.
To make this vision a reality, we are teaming up with Sandvik Mining and MacLean Engineering to provide battery-powered underground vehicles for almost all the requirements at the site. Our new mining technology will range from battery-operated drilling and blasting equipment, to electric bolters, personnel carriers and ultimately 40-metric-tonne, battery-powered haul trucks.
“We believe the days of diesel use for underground mining equipment are numbered”
Goldcorp’s battery and electric mobile equipment will eliminate all greenhouse gases associated with the movement of ore and waste rock – equal to approximately 50 per cent of the total greenhouse gases on site, or 5,000 tons of CO2 per year. Eliminating diesel will also make a huge improvement in working conditions by removing diesel particulate, leading to cleaner air, and will lower the overall energy required for underground ventilation than a baseline underground mine using diesel-powered equipment.
The Borden mine will also rely on digital and smart controls for added efficiency, and will look to use renewable energy such as biomass for heating. We are hopeful that demonstrating this ‘mine of the future’ will be an example of leadership in innovation, clean technologies and health and safety that will be adopted by other mining companies.
Ecotails: A Leap Forward in Water Management
It is no secret that mining is a water-intensive process, but the industry is hard at work on innovations that challenge that age-old dynamic. Goldcorp, for one, is playing a leadership role in advancing solutions for water conservation.
The company’s Water Stewardship Strategy was launched in 2013, setting site-specific milestones for each operating mine. That has evolved into our recently-released Towards Zero Water (H2Zero) strategy. H2Zero’s moonshot is to drastically reduce fresh-water consumption and completely eliminate the use of traditional slurry tailings, currently the largest store of water in the mining process. H2Zero requires step-change innovation and a deep commitment. As part of the target, Goldcorp has just unveiled a flagship water stewardship technology called EcoTails that could represent a giant leap forward in tailings management.
“It is no secret that mining is a water-intensive process, but the industry is hard at work on innovations that challenge that age-old dynamic”
In essence, Eco Tails blends filtered tailings with waste rock in transit – creating a stable product called GeoWaste. Here is how it works: Tailings fill the void space between rock particles, reducing the opportunity for oxygen flow. Coarse waste rock particles provide improved shear strength for physical stability, and the waste rock covers the tailings.
results? No tailings dam, lower fresh water use, no acid rock drainage, a smaller mine footprint, and less overall risk. The end product also has better strength and stability, which facilitates mine reclamation. A proof-of-concept study at our Peñasquito mine will be completed this summer. A full-scale prototype is the next step, followed by deployment at the mine.
Leading by Example
At Goldcorp, we believe that true innovation comes by synthesizing new technologies and strategic partnerships with a global approach to problem solving. By playing a leadership role, we aim to leapfrog the mining industry into a sustainable future that will preserve clean air and water for generations to come.
About the Author
Bert Bergeron joined Goldcorp in November 2010 and was appointed Executive Vice President of Corporate Affairs and Sustainability in January 2015. Prior to joining Goldcorp, he served as a senior executive with international experience in the fields of construction and infrastructure development, broadcast and media. Over the course of his career he has worked throughout Africa, North, South and Central America.
Mr Bergeron leads the development and implementation of Goldcorp’s corporate affairs and sustainability programmes. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Council of the Americas, the Mining Association of Canada, and the Boreal Leadership Council. He also serves as a member of the Executive Steering Committee for the Responsible Gold Standard Initiative at the World Gold Council and is Chairman of the International Council of Metals and Mining’s Environmental and Social Committee.
Mr Bergeron holds a Bachelor of Arts (Economics) and a Masters of Arts (Economics) from Carleton University in Ottawa.