Goldcorp Inc.’s Musselwhite Mine is working toward becoming a full-fledged smart mine with all the safety, cost-savings, and other benefits that come along with it. Its new Integrated Remote Operations Centre (IROC), which opened in Thunder Bay in June, allows operators, communications/dispatch personnel and supervisors to work at the mine virtually.
Peter Gula, Musselwhite’s mine general manager, said that the most dangerous work such as loading and rock breaker operations are performed teleremotely. New technology including fibre-based networking has allowed the company to physically move operators out of the mine and into an office building in Thunder Bay, 500 kilometres to the south.
“I’ve had this vision of trying to get as many people offsite as possible,” said Gula, who transferred to Musselwhite in 2015 from Red Lake where he worked for 27 years. “Every person that we have up at site has about a $40,000 a year cost associated with it. That includes travel, housing, and all the staff and services that go to support the people working at Musselwhite.”
The company started moving non-producing positions such as payroll, administration, and some HR to Thunder Bay in April 2017. In June 2018, dispatch personnel and some machine operators moved to the new control centre. The near-term goal is to move about 60 people to Thunder Bay, which would reduce operational expenses at Musselwhite Mine by $2.4 million per year.
There are other considerations besides cost savings, Gula said. Safety is an important one. “First and foremost, we’re removing people from those hazardous conditions.” A system that allows operators to control the machine from an office 500 kilometres away would completely eliminate risks inherent to mining underground. “That’s the best way to control it.
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