Innovation upping safety game underground: Northern gold mines using technology to keep workers safe.

AuthorKelly, Lindsay

"Safe. Simple. Green. Silent. Invisible."

It's a tagline Goldcorp has adopted for its developing Borden gold project, located near Chapleau, and it's no coincidence that "safe" is the leading word in the statement.

Located in a pristine area on the shores of Borden Lake, the proposed mine is in the early stages of advanced exploration, but already several decisions have been made about the mine in keeping with Goldcorp's efforts to minimize the impact on the environment and its workers.

"We intend to leave next to nothing for a footprint there," said Peter Calnan, Goldcorp's director of operational support and change management, during the 2017 Workplace Safety North mining conference in Sudbury. "You will hardly know there's a mine there as you drive by."

Yet within its depths, the mine will be home to some sophisticated equipment and tools designed to make work safer for the 200 or so employees that will toil underground.

Paramount to its operation is a fleet of battery-operated electric vehicles, including jumbos, 14-tonne load-haul-dump (LHDs), bolters, service carriers, and emulsion loaders. Trucks delivering ore to the surface will initially be diesel-operated--electric technology for them isn't yet available, but when it is, Goldcorp will switch them over, too, Calnan said.

The mine will eliminate compressed air underground, which can be a hazard, and will use the ventilation system to disseminate warnings instead. Calnan said the company is considering electronic warning systems as a backup.

In addition, the company has purchased an emergency ChargeAir system from Drager that includes self-contained breathing apparatus, with cylinders that can be recharged, and a refuge that has a, 48-hour capacity which will be located at strategic locations throughout the mine.

"Everyone going underground will be trained, and personnel will have immediate access to breathing apparatus if required during an event, and then proceed to a refuge," Calnan said.

He called the mine an "innovative, fun place" that the company is excited about.

"There's a bit of technology to catch up yet, in terms of the electric equipment, but the mine itself should be pretty cool."

But safety innovation isn't just for new mines. Like Borden, its decade-sold neighbour in nearby Timmins, Porcupine Gold Mines' (PGM) Kidd Creek, is taking advantage of state-of-the-art innovation to keep it operational.

In 2016, the deepest base metal mine in the world celebrated its 50th...

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